The debt-limit grind

Policymakers in Washington got some good news recently: They don’t need to have a legislative solution on raising the debt ceiling until after the August recess.

The bad news, however, is that the White House and Congress are worlds apart on reaching a fiscal deal before the fall.

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In recent weeks, The Hill has asked a range of lawmakers how they see the debt ceiling battle playing out. Most of them shrug and say they have no idea.

For the moment, both Democrats and Republicans are playing leverage games. President Obama has said he won’t negotiate over the debt ceiling, but a “clean” hike simply can’t pass the Republican-led House.

In an effort to take default off the table, GOP lawmakers are pushing legislation that would prioritize the federal government’s payments. But that bill isn’t going to make it through the Democratic-led Senate.

At some point, the parties are going to have to dance, and the sooner they do it, the better.

Republicans and a few Democrats believe tax reform could be the key to striking a big deal on the debt ceiling. Yet, it is hard to see how tax reform can move that quickly through both chambers.

Obama’s “charm offensive” with certain Republicans on Capitol Hill attracted warm praise from GOP lawmakers but achieved few results. At a press conference Tuesday, Obama expressed frustration with Congress as he was asked questions about his stalled legislative agenda.

The president showed optimism about getting immigration reform passed, though that effort still has a long way to go. Gun control and eradicating the sequester, which are both high on Obama’s wish list, are unlikely to pass in 2013.

 In a show of good faith, Obama included a Social Security reform favored by the GOP in his most recent budget. Liberal Democrats ripped the move, though it hasn’t convinced Republicans to embrace the tax increases Obama wants. 

 Until that happens, Obama says he won’t agree to any grand bargain.

 While Republican rank-and-file members might enjoy meeting with the president over dinner, they are unlikely to cross their leaders.

 As The Hill reported this week, Obama’s relationship with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is at a new low.

 McConnell, who Democrats are targeting in 2014, helped craft the fiscal cliff deal a few months ago. However, he has made it clear that he is against any eleventh-hour deal on the debt limit.

 It is admirable Obama is trying to reach out more to Republicans in the House and Senate, but to get a fiscal deal signed into law, he’s going to have to reach out to Boehner and McConnell.

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