Jake Tapper, ABC News
Officials familiar with the negotiations say todayâ€™s meeting began with President Obama asking House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., to lay out what was agreed upon in the deficit reduction talks led by Vice President Biden.
Cantor outlined around $2 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade: $1â€“1.1 trillion in discretionary spending; $200 billion in mandatory discretionary spending (such as civilian military retirement and farm subsidies); $200 billion in Medicare and Medicaid; and roughly $200-300 billion in saved interest on the debt.
After Cantorâ€™s presentation, the President said the two sides might be able to reach consensus on roughly $1.7 trillion, though there were still some issues to resolve.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has said the amount they agree to in deficit reduction needs to be equal to â€“ if not more than â€“ the amount they agree to raise the debt ceiling.
How much is that? There seemed to be consensus in the room that the amount by which they need to raise the debt ceiling is $2.4 trillion.
That would get the government to February or March 2013. Why that date? No one thinks a lame duck Congress should take this on from November-January 2012/2013 and that would allow the new Congress and maybe a new President to get his or her sea legs before addressing this again.
So tomorrowâ€™s homework assignment, the president said, is for the congressional leaders to figure out how to get from $1.7 trillion to $2.4 trillion.
Republicans are still insisting on no new taxes. Democrats say they need some revenues â€“ a â€œbalanced approachâ€ â€“ to get Democratic votes.Â As House Minority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, said today, â€œRepublicans must be prepared to make concessions of their own and not put the entire burden on seniors, the middle class and the most vulnerable among us.”
Congressional leaders will need Democratic votes not only in the Senate but the House as well. â€œYouâ€™ve got the (Michele) Bachmann Caucus that has made it clear they wonâ€™t vote for anything,â€ one Democratic official said.
Boehner said at one point that â€œitâ€™s clear to all of us how big this spending problem is. Congress keeps voting for programs we canâ€™t pay for. But look, entitlement cuts arenâ€™t easy for us to vote for either. Our guys arenâ€™t cheerleading about cutting entitlements.â€
â€œYour guys already voted for them,â€ the president said, referring to the budget offered by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc.
â€œExcuse us for trying to lead,â€ Boehner said.
The president today continued to make the case for a big deal, arguing that if theyâ€™re going to draw heat for the deal, they should at least do more than make a down payment on the deficit â€“ they should get the country on sounder financial footing and begin to seriously bend the deficit cost curve.
During another exchange, Republicans were going through proposed tax increases as bad for jobs.
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