By Erik Wasson - 07/23/11 12:05 AM EDT
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) blamed President Obama for wrecking a grand bargain on the deficit with a last minute demand for taxes.
Boehner spoke out in an extraordinary Friday evening press conference held to rebut blistering criticism from Obama, who had delivered a televised show himself less than an hour earlier.
"The White House moved the goal post," Boehner said. "There was an agreement on some additional revenues, until yesterday when the president demanded $400 billion more, which was going to be nothing more than a tax increase on the American people."
“There was an agreement with the White House at $800 billion in revenue. It’s the president who walked away from his agreement and demanded more money at the last minute,” he said.
Boehner denied he had been pressured by his own caucus to abandon discussions with Obama.
The speaker said that he will begin working with House and Senate colleagues Friday evening on an alternative to the now-dead grand deficit bargain. He did say he has never discussed a short-term debt ceiling increase with Obama and that idea does not interest him.
Boehner said he will attend a meeting at the White House Saturday morning at Obama’s request and does not think the fact he failed to promptly return a phone call from Obama has destroyed their relationship.
“I don’t believe that our relationship is permanently damaged,” he said. Obama had mentioned the unreturned phone call during an his own extraordinary press conference during which he accused Boehner of failing to be a leader.
The Speaker deflected that criticism by comparing the responsibilities of their offices.
"I take the same oath of office as the president of the United States. I've got the same responsibilities as the president of the United States. And I think that's for both of us to do what's in the best interest of our country. And I can tell you that it's not in the best interest of our country to raise taxes during this difficult economy," he said.
With ten days left until the debt-ceiling deadline, Boehner tried to portray confidence that a debt default after Aug. 2 will be avoided but would not tell reporters what a fallback deal will look like.
“Starting tonight I will be working with colleagues both in the House and the Senate to find a responsible path forward. And I am confident that the bipartisan leaders of the Congress can come together and ensure that we have an agreement that will allow the country to avoid default and meets the principle that we’ve outlined: spending cuts that must be greater than the increase in the debt limit and no tax increases,” Boehner said.
The breakdown in the talks was revealed after U.S. financial markets had closed, and Boehner’s press conference appeared aimed at Wall Street as much as the wider public.
“I want to be entirely clear: No one wants to default on the full, faith and credit of the United States,” he said.