Congressional leaders are making yet another trip to the White House today for a day of negotiations over raising the debt ceiling, and tensions are higher than ever. Republican leaders have charged Obama with demagoguing the debt talks, and Hill Democrats' latest round of salvos include the charge that at least one GOP leader doesn't belong at the negotiating table.
With a swipe at House Majority Leader Eric Cantor as "childish," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called for Cantor to be kicked out of the debt talks all together. "He shouldn't even be at the table," Reid said. You can watch a video of Reid's remarks above.
Reid wasn't the only one to take a shot at Cantor. New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the third-ranking Democrat in the chamber, piled on as well. "If Eric Cantor decides everything, I fear we'll be in default," he said Thursday.
Cantor responded with a promise to stick it out.
"Leader Reid, I'd imagine, is frustrated. As we all are," Cantor said when asked about Reid's comments. "But the fact is, we are going to abide by our principles. And that's how it is."
Meanwhile, in an appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill charged that a short-term fix proposed by GOP Sen. Mitch McConnell suggests that the chamber's minority leader had "lost his mind."
As the talks wound up yesterday, progress was clearly stymied. The two-hour meeting concluded for the day when President Obama abruptly ended the talks and left the room.
"Enough is enough," Obama reportedly said, before ending the meeting.
Republicans say that the White House has gradually reduced the level of federal spending cuts, a major point of contention between the parties. Democrats also continue to demand what they call a "balanced approach" to reining in the deficit by combining spending cuts with tax increases. As late as Thursday afternoon, House Republican leaders still refused to consider any plan that includes a tax hike.
During Wednesday's meeting, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor suggested a short-term solution, which Obama rejected.
If the talks completely break down before the Aug. 2 deadline, there are still options to avoid a government default. Earlier this week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, unveiled a proposal that would give Obama the power to raise the debt ceiling without the consent of Congress. That would be the least desirable option, McConnell said, but a necessary gambit in the event the parties cannot reach a deal. During a press conference today, Boehner threw his support behind McConnell's escape plan.
"Mitch described his proposal as a 'last-ditch effort' in case we're unable to do anything else," Boehner said. "What may look like something less than optimal today, if we're unable to get to an agreement, might look pretty good a couple of weeks from now. But I think it's worth keeping on the table."
"I think it's an option that may be worthy at some point," he added.
Whether McConnell's plan could pass Congress is another story entirely. Beohner said he has "no idea" if it would win approval in the House.
The last-minute talks at the White House also continue among a backdrop of gloomy economic news. Moody's Investors Service warned this week that its analysts could downgrade the nation's credit rating if leaders fail to take action.