President Obama spoke to reporters for just a couple of minutes this afternoon, updating them and the public about this morning’s “Gang of 10” debt-reduction talks. Here’s the video of the president’s unscripted comments:
For those who can’t watch clips online, Obama described today’s discussion as “frank” and “very constructive,” with agreement that a deal has to be reached on time. Participants agreed that “staffs as well as leadership will be working during the weekend.”
The president will reconvene the group on Sunday at the White House “with the expectation that at that point, the parties will at least know where each other’s bottom lines are.” From there, members will “begin the hard negotiating” to “get a deal done.”
Obama reminded us that the parties remain “far apart” on a “wide range of issues,” and added that everyone seemed to agree that there will be “pain involved politically on all sides” in a final agreement.
The president, not surprisingly, made no reference to overnight reports about Medicare and Social Security cuts being on the table.
While we take stock of where things stand, let’s also mention a couple of other noteworthy developments. We learned this morning, for example, that House Democrats were enraged by the reports about possible entitlement cuts, but the White House believes progressive concerns have been exaggerated by incomplete media coverage. Referencing the Washington Post piece, a senior administration official told Sam Stein, “The story overshoots the runway.”
On the other side of the aisle, there’s apparently an uptick in Republican optimism about the process. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told his caucus that the odds of reaching a tentative debt-ceiling deal within 48 hours are “maybe 50-50.” Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) added, “I get the impression that it’s better than 50-50.”
Update: It’s also worth keeping in mind that the Treasury Department has, for the first time, acknowledged exploring legal alternatives — including, apparently, the 14th Amendment Option — in case the talks collapse and Republicans follow through with their threats.