'Fully engaged' McConnell expresses optimism on debt deal

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Saturday he and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) are fully engaged with the White House on a debt deal and expressed optimism an agreement will be reached. 

“I’ve spoken with the president and the vice president within the last hour and a half," McConnell said at a press conference with Boehner shortly after the House rejected Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-Nev.) debt-ceiling plan. 

"We are now fully engaged with the one person … who can sign a bill into law,” McConnell told reporters. 

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Fewer than three days before the Aug. 2 deadline for raising the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling, McConnell insisted that the economic doomsday scenario would not happen. Faced with questions about whether soldiers would receive paychecks, McConnell said a deal would be made. 

“Our country is not going to default for the first time in our history – that is not going to happen – we now have a level of seriousness and the right people at the table that we needed and thought we had, as the Speaker indicated last week,” McConnell said.

McConnell added that he is “confident and optimistic that we can get an agreement in the very near future and resolve this crisis.”

McConnell spoke hours after House Republicans rejected Reid's plan and less than a day after Senate Democrats dispatched with Boehner's plan. 

The end game on the debt deal now appears to revolve around talks between McConnell, Reid and President Obama. 

Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) traveled to the White House for a meeting with Obama late Saturday afternoon. 

The tricky part for the congressional leaders remains finding a bill that can move through both chambers, including a House dominated by Tea Party freshman Republicans. 

McConnell said at his press briefing that he had talked with Obama and Vice President Biden on a way forward. Top ranking leaders in the House and Senate are "discussing ways to reach an agreement," McConnell said.

Boehner, who walked out on talks with the White House more than a week ago, agreed that a deal would come together soon.

He said “in spite of our differences, we are dealing with reasonable, responsible people who want this crisis to end as quickly as possible, and I’m confident that it will.”

Reid's proposal was defeated in a 173-246, with 11 Democrats joining House Republicans in voting down the measure.