Updated: 6:40 p.m.
A grim-faced Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid returned to the Senate from a meeting with President Barack Obama on Saturday with a deal to raise the nation’s debt ceiling nowhere in sight.
“The question is are we closer to agreement? The answer is no,” the Nevada Democrat told reporters following his meeting with Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
The hastily called meeting lasted nearly an hour and a half, and it followed a telephone conversation between Obama and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
Ironically, McConnell had expressed optimism that a deal could be reached this weekend during a Saturday afternoon press event with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).
“We are now fully engaged, the speaker and I, with the one person in America out of 307 billion people who can sign a bill into law. I’m confident and optimistic that we’re going to get an agreement in the very near future and resolve this crisis in the best interests of the American people,” McConnell said.
With less than four days before the nation defaults on its debt, lawmakers in both chambers appeared to still be far apart on how to complete a deal to avoid the global economic consequences of a default.
But neither side appeared ready to compromise any further than they have so far. Republicans, particularly in the House, were continuing to stand their ground.
“Having demonstrated today that the Reid bill cannot pass in either chamber, and having crafted a bipartisan framework with the bipartisan Senate leadership that the White House rejected, Sen. McConnell and Speaker Boehner are waiting along with the rest of America for Washington Democrats to tell the nation their plan,” a GOP leadership aide said Saturday.
On Saturday evening, Reid labeled as patently false claims made earlier in the day by Republican leaders that meaningful talks were under way with Obama to resolve the impasse over raising the debt ceiling.
Following a rare live quorum vote, a procedure used to force Members to the floor, Reid ripped into McConnell and Boehner. With both the Secretary of the Senate and Sergeant-at-Arms seated in the ceremonial seats — a sign of the importance of the issue — Reid lambasted McConnell, insisting there is no agreement.
“Today the Speaker and the Republican leader held a press conference to announce they’re in talks with the president and that a bargain to raise the debt limit is in the works and is close. Mr. President, Members of the Senate, that’s not true,” Reid said.
“The Speaker and the Republican leader should know that merely saying you have an agreement in front of television cameras doesn’t make it so,” Reid added.
McConnell responded that, “the fact of the matter is that the only way we’re going to get an agreement before Tuesday is to have an agreement with the president of the United States.”
“I’m not interested in scoring any political points. I’m interested in getting an outcome for the American people. And the only way that can be done is with the president of the United States,” McConnell said.
The GOP leader then took a shot of his own at Reid, saying: “I might say, I actually cut short a conversation with the vice president to come out here for this important vote on a live quorum. I’d like to get back to work.”