Boehner's optimism sags on chances of supercommittee reaching a deal

Several sources close to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) say the top-ranking lawmaker is pessimistic that the supercommittee will reach a deal before the Nov. 23 deadline.

Boehner expressed his frustrations early Friday morning to a handful of colleagues.

“He was clearly disappointed and dejected that the Democrats failed to bite on anything that he had put out there,” a lawmaker at a breakfast told The Hill.

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The source added, “not that [Democrats] had not given a counteroffer but the counteroffer was so ludicrous that it wasn’t realistic.”

Until late Thursday afternoon, Boehner had expressed optimism that the supercommittee would come to a deal before the deadline. A source close to Boehner told The Hill on Thursday that the Speaker seemed positive that a deal was imminent.

Less than 24 hours later, Boehner’s outlook had changed considerably.

A participant at the Friday morning breakfast said that Boehner’s “always the optimist, but he’s growing less optimistic.”

“He was clearly frustrated that [Republicans] had made an offer that [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid [D-Nev.] rejected out of hand — well they didn’t reject it, they came back with something that was totally unrealistic and [Boehner] is very frustrated with what the Democrats are doing right now,” the source said.

Boehner press secretary Michael Steel said that the Speaker is acutely aware of the reality that a proposal must be presented to Congress in little more than five day.

“We’ve got a long way to go and a little time to do it. The Speaker’s cognizant of that,” Steel said.

According to sources at the breakfast, Boehner’s frustration stems from a growing belief that Democrats don’t want to come to an agreement.

“If they wanted a deal, they’d be hard-pressed to prove it,” a source from the breakfast said.

Though individuals close to the Speaker said that he would likely stay in town over the weekend to help the supercommittee facilitate a deal, it appeared on Friday that Boehner opted to remain in contact over the phone.

Asked if Boehner would remain in D.C. over the weekend — as supercommittee co-chairman Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) intends to do, Steel responded that Boehner would “be in close contact with the members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction.”

Democrats on the supercommittee, including Xavier Beccerra (D-Calif.), told reporters they intend to remain in town over the weekend to continue working on a deal.

Some Republican lawmakers predicted that the supercommittee may miss next week’s deadline but would make the deadline for the full Congress to vote on a proposal before Dec. 23.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said that his “instinct” tells him that “they may miss the deadline for the committee but I don’t think we’ll miss the deadline for the Congress.”

“I think this thing will get sorted out at the minimal level sometime before we adjourn this year and we will achieve those objectives,” Cole said.

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He argued that Republicans have come a long way in their journey to compromise with Democrats, who would like to see increased taxes.

“Our side has worked really hard – I think that revenue is on the table is an indication that they are very serious trying to work with the Democrats,” Cole said.

Veteran GOP lawmakers pointed to President Obama's lack of participation in the process as a signal that he wants the supercommittee to fail.

The president has been out of the country on a Pacific Rim tour for the past several days, as the clock ticks down on the supercommittee. Cole said, “of course, the president is off, God knows where, doing God knows what, I would think something this important he would be here.”

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) rejected the notion that Obama hasn't intervened enough in the debate. Larson said the Congress created the supercommittee and it should be Congress to see the process through.

"The president learned a lesson ... during the whole debt-ceiling debate. As you'll recall, [he] went for a big, bold plan, and unfortunately had the carpet pulled out from underneath him," Larson told reporters Friday.

"This has become a problem that the Congress has a constitutional responsibility, as an equal branch of government, to solve," Larson said. "It was part of a deal that was constructed [by Congress]. The president has a responsibility to live up to his end of the deal, in this case, and that's whether or not to pass or veto the final product."

— Mike Lillis, Erik Wasson contributed to this report.