White House, Republicans play it cool over Aug. 2 debt-ceiling deadline

White House, Republicans play it cool over Aug. 2 debt-ceiling deadline

Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerEthics panel reprimands Freedom Caucus chairman over handling of harassment allegations Pelosi allies rage over tactics of opponents Meet the lawyer Democrats call when it's recount time MORE (R-Ohio) insisted Tuesday that an Aug. 2 deadline to reach a debt-ceiling deal is artificial, while another GOP leader said it would likely be extended.

The GOP maneuver — playing it cool as the deadline hurtles closer — appears to mirror that of the White House, which has taken pains to seem unhurried despite its warnings of imminent calamity.

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“Dealing with this deficit problem is far more important than meeting some artificial date created by the Treasury secretary,” BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerEthics panel reprimands Freedom Caucus chairman over handling of harassment allegations Pelosi allies rage over tactics of opponents Meet the lawyer Democrats call when it's recount time MORE said in an interview taped Tuesday for Sean Hannity’s program on Fox News.

Separately, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said he understood that the deadline would be moved back, to later in August. “I have simply heard that they may be announcing that they can expand this to a later time in August. As I said, that wouldn’t be surprising to me,” Kyl said.

Time is running out to reach a deal to raise the debt ceiling by Aug. 2, which is when, according to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, the U.S. will no longer be able to pay its bills.

Both Republicans and Obama and Democrats could be blamed if they trigger an economic downturn by failing to take action that former Congresses handled almost routinely.

Yet both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue on Tuesday were playing it cool, as if each believed it was the other side that had everything to lose in the negotiation.

The GOP assertions of an artificial deadline followed comments from the White House that showed little urgency.

President Obama will meet with Senate Democratic leaders on Wednesday in the White House, but his press secretary emphasized that the meeting had been scheduled before debt talks led by Vice President Biden stalled last week over GOP demands that higher taxes be left out of a deal.

Press secretary Jay Carney told reporters flying with Obama on Air Force One to Iowa that he did not have “a structure to provide to you” on how the talks would proceed and that he did not want to “predict a schedule” for talks.


He also said no details on the talks would be forthcoming from the White House.

“We will continue to have conversation and meetings without much elaborations about the details of what’s being discussed there, simply because we believe that enhances the prospects of reaching an agreement,” Carney said.

Boehner last week told reporters he expected he’d be hearing from the White House after his deputy, Majority Leader Eric CantorEric Ivan CantorMcCarthy defeats Jordan for minority leader in 159-to-43 vote The Hill's Morning Report — Split decision: Dems take House, GOP retains Senate majority Democrat Spanberger knocks off Brat in Virginia MORE (R-Va.), abandoned the debt talks led by Biden.

Nearly a week later, it appears that Boehner is still waiting; he does not have any meetings with the administration on the debt ceiling scheduled this week. A GOP leadership aide said Boehner has had no conversations with the administration this week on the topic.

Carney said Obama has no meetings scheduled with Republicans.

Treasury has warned of an economic catastrophe if lawmakers do not raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling by Aug. 2. Officials say the value of the U.S. dollar could plummet, damaging the economy and making it tougher for businesses to borrow. Bond markets could sour, interest rates could rise and the stock market could plunge.

A Treasury spokeswoman on Tuesday said U.S. revenues would determine the deadline, and that it was unlikely to move much. 

“We will provide an update on the debt-ceiling outlook at the beginning of July, as we have done at the beginning of each month this year, but it is unlikely that the date will move by more than a day or two — if at all,” said Treasury spokeswoman Colleen Murray.

Kyl said it could take weeks to put any deficit deal into legislation and the GOP will not allow a White House deal to be “parachuted” into the Capitol and rammed through in three days.

The Bipartisan Policy Center estimated Tuesday that the real deadline could be extended as far as Aug. 9. It also predicted that a failure to raise the ceiling meant Treasury would have to cut 44 percent of federal spending to prevent a default.

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Obama will meet with Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidDems wonder if Sherrod Brown could be their magic man Nevada New Members 2019 Meet the lawyer Democrats call when it's recount time MORE (D-Nev.); Majority Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinMultiple deaths in shooting at Chicago hospital Senate barrels toward showdown over Trump's court picks Overnight Health Care — Presented by The Partnership for Safe Medicines — GOP lawmaker pushes back on Trump drug pricing plan | Pfizer to raise prices on 41 drugs next year | Grassley opts for Finance gavel MORE (D-Ill.); Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerFacebook reeling after damning NYT report Schumer warns Trump to stay out of government funding negotiations Schumer predicts Nelson will 'continue being senator' if 'every vote counted' MORE (N.Y.), the chairman of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee; and Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care — Presented by The Partnership for Safe Medicines — FDA restricts sales of flavored e-cigs | Proposes ban on menthol in tobacco | Left wants vote on single-payer bill in new Congress | More than 12k lost Medicaid in Arkansas Schumer reelected as Senate Democratic Leader Senate GOP readies for leadership reshuffle MORE (D-Wash.), the conference secretary, at 3 p.m. Wednesday. Biden will also attend the meeting.

The two sides are battling over what to include in what is expected to be an at least $2.5 trillion deficit-reduction package. The GOP is focused on spending cuts, while the White House wants to include some tax measures.

Carney said the White House was continuing to consult with congressional leaders and moving toward “what we believe will be a significant deficit-reduction deal.”

He also took issue with suggestions the Biden talks had collapsed, saying that those discussions made progress and that it “was always the case that all the issues would not be resolved in those negotiations.”