WASHINGTON — Signaling an attempt to break an impasse, President Barack Obama on Thursday placed calls to House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell about the looming spending cuts set to kick in on March 1. Neither side reported progress, however, and aides taunted each other with Twitter messages.
The outreach was Obama's first in weeks to top Republicans in Congress. They came as both parties remained in a stalemate over how to avoid automatic, across-the-board cuts that would trim $85 billion from most government accounts.
White House spokesman Jay Carney revealed the calls Thursday, describing them as good conversations. But neither he nor top Republican aides offered details about the discussions, the kind of restraint that has in the past indicated a move toward genuine negotiations. Obama also spoke to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on Thursday, though aides said both men speak frequently.
Later Thursday, White House spokesman Jay Carney and Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck engaged in an exchange on Twitter debating Obama's insistence on replacing the cuts with a combination of tax increases and targeted spending reductions, an approach that Obama says would strike a balance between revenue and cuts. Republicans have refused to increase taxes, noting that Congress already agreed to a previous Obama request to raise the upper tax rate for top income earners.
Oh, Jay. Was it balanced when the president got $600B in revenue with no spending cuts just last month? Buck tweeted at one point.
Oh, Brendan, back in real world, POTUS has signed into law (more than) $2.5 trillion in deficit reduction, 2/3 of it spending cuts, Carney replied, using the acronym for president of the United States.