White House joins Reid-McConnell side talks on fall-back plan

Reid said his work with McConnell “is not the only plan” available, but Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said, given the legislative calendar, an alternative such as the McConnell-Reid proposal will be necessary if another deal cannot be struck this week. 

Durbin said Obama "has expressed to the [debt-ceiling] group that by Friday, we have to have to have something done, and that's realistic."

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the president is looking for progress in the debt talks.

"The President views Friday as an important moment where we can make an assessment about whether we are moving toward a significant bipartisan agreement on deficit reduction or not," Carney said.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday said the fallback plan should be on the table, even as he said that he does not know if it could pass the House.

The McConnell-Reid plan could be tied to spending cuts to sweeten it for House Republicans, and might involve the appointment of a commission of lawmakers to propose additional deficit cuts that would receive expedited consideration in the Congress.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Democrats in negotiations are looking to modify the McConnell plan, which he said is a blatant political attempt to pin all the blame for the debt on Obama, so that the GOP shares more responsibility.

Reid told reporters Thursday that he does not think a large deficit-cutting deal in daily leadership meetings with the White House can be struck so long as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) continues to obstruct them.

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“I have sat with Sen. Durbin through those endless meeting and unless [Cantor] changes and becomes someone who contributes to solution, the answer is no. He has not been constructively working on the problems,” he said. 

Earlier in the day Reid had called Cantor "childish" and suggested he should not be in the talks.

Cantor's office pushed back on that later.

“It’s not surprising that Harry Reid doesn't want to cut spending and wants to raise taxes with so many Americans out of work. This isn't a question about personalities — Eric, President Obama or Harry Reid — it's about doing what is right for the country and trying to find a productive solution that finally demonstrates Washington is serious about America's fiscal health,” Cantor spokeswoman Laena Fallon said.

Last updated at 5:15 p.m.