There were no face-to-face talks between the administration and lawmakers during the day, although the White House is dispatching Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and top legislative aide Rob Nabors to a series of sessions with congressional leaders today.
On Wednesday, a group of corporate CEOs pushing for a deal met separately with top Democratic and Republican leaders in the House, joined by Erskine Bowles, who was co-chairman of a deficit commission Obama appointed earlier in his term.
Speaking to reporters before a session with business leaders, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California said the bargaining ought to begin where deficit talks between Obama and Boehner broke down 18 months ago “and go from there to reach an agreement.”
She didn’t say so, but at the time, the two men were exchanging offers that called for at least $250 billion in cuts from Medicare over a decade, and another $100 billion from Medicaid and other federal health programs. Among the changes under discussion — with Obama’s approval — was a gradual increase in the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 67, as well as higher fees for beneficiaries.
Also on the table at the time was a plan to curtail future cost-of-living increases for Social Security and other benefit programs.
Those negotiations faltered in a hail of recriminations after the president upped his demand for additional tax revenue and conservatives balked. At the same time liberals were objecting to savings from Medicare and Social Security.
Now, Obama has said repeatedly he is open to alternatives to his current proposal to raise additional tax revenue. But he also says he will refuse to sign legislation that extends the current top rates on incomes over $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for couples.
Instead, he is pushing Congress to renew expiring tax cuts for all income below those levels as an interim measure — an offer Boehner and Republicans generally say is unacceptable because it would mean higher taxes on small business owners.