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Democrats Leave White House Calling for Debt Deal

House Democratic leaders said Thursday that an agreement to raise the debt ceiling and reduce the deficit must be reached in the next several weeks, even as leaders from both parties continued to hold a hard line on the pressing issues.

“Our Members were very encouraged,” Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said at a news conference after the House Democratic Caucus met with President Barack Obama. She added that Members “are regularly briefed” on the bipartisan talks on deficit reduction being led by Vice President Joseph Biden. 

“We’re working together, very determined to reduce the deficit,” she said.

The Caucus gathered at the White House the day after Obama hosted a meeting with the House Republican Conference. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told a small group of reporters Wednesday that he was ready to engage in negotiations so a resolution could happen within the month.
Democratic leaders maintained Thursday that revenues must be part of any deal for reducing the deficit and that Medicare should be preserved. Republicans have repeatedly said that tax increases are off the table and that Medicare must be overhauled in order to cut down on entitlement spending.

House Budget ranking member Chris Van Hollen, who is part of the Biden-led talks, acknowledged that although the group has agreed on certain spending cuts, complicated issues remain.

“Have we engaged on what I refer to as the politically nuclear issues? No. But we’re going to have to find a way to address these issues going forward,” the Maryland Democrat said.

While the Democratic Caucus was at the White House, Republican freshmen met with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner in the Capitol to discuss raising the debt limit. Lawmakers exiting the meeting said Geithner answered their questions but did not offer a plan from the administration to reduce the deficit. A group of GOP freshmen plan to send a letter to Obama this week insisting that he propose a plan that can be scored by the Congressional Budget Office. They also want the president to outline a contingency plan in case Congress does not increase the debt ceiling before Aug. 2, when the government is projected to begin defaulting on its loans.

“The secretary reiterated to us that the president does not have a plan that we can score, and that’s really what we want,” Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) said at a news conference after the meeting with Geithner, which lasted nearly an hour. “You can’t really compare plans if the president doesn’t give us one. For me, that’s a failure of leadership.”