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Democrats cool to Boehner's two-step debt-ceiling plan

July 24, 2011|By Kathleen Hennessey | Washington Bureau
  • Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) shares a thought with House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) during talks at the White House on Saturday.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) shares a thought with House… (Harry Hamburg / Associated…)

Reporting from Washington   — House Speaker John A. Boehner said he was still trying to unveil a bipartisan debt-limit deal Sunday afternoon, but acknowledged he didn't have Democrats onboard with a two-step proposal he has offered. 

“We’re not there yet,” the Republican said in a morning interview on “Fox News Sunday.”

Boehner and Democrats in Congress are stuck on the structure of the deficit-reduction plan needed to persuade rank-and-file Republicans to raise the debt limit. 

If the limit isn’t raised by Aug. 2 the government will not be able to pay its bills. Boehner said Saturday that he wanted to announce a breakthrough in talks before the financial markets opened in Asia on Sunday.

As talks with congressional Democrats appeared stalled, both Boehner and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner appeared to open the door to resuming direct discussions with the White House. The speaker pulled out of those talks on Friday. Asked if the so-called grand bargain on debt reduction and the debt ceiling sought by President Obama was dead, Boehner said, “It may be pretty hard to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. My last offer is still out there.”

The comments came as congressional Democrats appeared to have drawn a hard line against the two-step process Republicans are pushing.

That plan would require two debt-limit increase votes — one now, along with a package of spending cuts, and another perhaps next year, attached to a larger deficit-reduction proposal. The administration has sought a deal that would cover spending through 2012.

While Boehner called the two-phase, eleventh-hour plan the only “doable” option, Geithner called it “irresponsible.”

“It makes no sense,” Geithner said, also speaking on “Fox News Sunday.”

“We started this process seven months ago, here we are seven months later. We’re running out of runway. I never thought they would take it this close to the edge,” he said.

kathleen.hennessey@latimes.com

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