Democratic tempers on Capitol Hill flared yesterday after reports that President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner had come up with a secret deal that would cut $3 trillion in spending in exchange for a commitment to increase revenue through tax reform over the next year. Democrats like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid were frustrated at being excluded from the negotiations. According to The Hill, during a Thursday meeting with Jack Lew, the White House budget director, Reid demanded: “I’m the Senate majority leader; why don’t I know about this deal?” [See editorial cartoons about the Democrats.]
Lew denied that a deal existed, but, according the The Hill, said the president and the speaker must be able to talk on their own if they are going to get anything done. White House spokesman Jay Carney also denied a deal was close at his Thursday press briefing. Boehner joined the chorus, speaking on conservative Rush Limbaugh’s radio show: “There is no deal; no deal publicly, no deal privately. There is absolutely no deal,” he said, emphasizing his support for the GOP’s “Cut, Cap, and Balance” legislation.
Republicans have long called for the president to take a direct hand in the negotiations, but pundits are speculating that Democrats may not fully trust Obama to stick to his guns without their input. “The view of the White House today is that the Democrats in Congress can be bypassed at the key moment of secret talks with Republicans, and then informed of the results,” writes The Hill columnist Brent Budowsky. “The president is being advised by some to sell us out on matters at the heart of what Democrats believe in.” [Check out political cartoons about the GOP.]
Democrats still seemed frustrated by the secret Obama-Boehner talks Friday morning, and the threat is real that they may not agree to a deal that doesn’t reflect their priorities. “There are talks going on between President Obama and Speaker Boehner. I wish them well,” Reid said on the Senate floor Friday morning. “I say to both the president and the speaker here on the Senate floor—representing my Democrats and, I'm confident, many Republicans—be very careful, show a lot of caution as this negotiation goes forward, because any arrangement must be fair to all America, not just the wealthy.” [See photos of the Obamas behind the scenes.]
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