White House says Boehner balked over taxes, not entitlements

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) all but extinguished hopes for a big deficit reduction deal because he refused to support any tax increases for the wealthiest Americans, a senior administration official said Saturday night.

The White House official also disputed the charge that President Obama was not willing to give ground on entitlement programs, saying that is “not true.”

“[Boehner] couldn’t do revenues from wealthiest Americans, he walked away over that,” the official said. “They are telling people we couldn’t do entitlements, not true.”

{mosads}Boehner releases a statement Saturday night that said he was backing away from a large-scale debt deal because “the White House will not pursue a bigger debt reduction agreement without tax hikes.”

But one Republican source told The Hill, “A gulf also remains between the Speaker and the White House on the issue of medium and long-term structural reforms.”

Obama will continue to try to make his case that the biggest option is still the best one to pursue when he meets with congressional leaders at the White House on Sunday evening, White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said in a statement.

In a similar meeting at the White House last week, Obama laid out three options for the size and scope of the package, urging lawmakers to pursue the biggest option in the range of $4.5 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years.

The president made clear he would veto the option of a short-term extension with about $1 trillion in cuts, but he left the door open to a $2 trillion to $3 trillion deficit cut package that would raise the debt ceiling through 2012.

A senior administration official said last week that both Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi agreed to pursue the big deal, but that appeared to go off the rails Saturday when Boehner issued a statement saying he did not think the big package could pass because of Obama’s insistence on tax increases.

In abandoning the biggest of the options, Boehner said he thought the only path possible was based on cuts identified in talks hosted by Vice President Biden that would match the amount of raising the debt ceiling.

White House officials would not say whether Obama would back such a deal or what that might look like, but they said Obama was still planning to make a push for a massive deal when he meets with lawmakers Sunday night. 

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