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Battle Lines Harden as Obama Joins Debt Ceiling Debate

Aaron Task
Editor in Chief
Fin - Daily Ticker - US

Updated from 11:51 p.m. EDT

Update: President Obama's Monday morning meeting with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was "constructive" and the President says there's an opportunity for a "significant" deal with the GOP, according to White House press secretary Jay Carney.

But the AP reports Carney says"the only way to get it done" is to raise about $600 billion via the removal of subsidies for oil and gas companies, as well as the following measures:

  • Tax private equity or hedge fund managers at higher income tax rates instead of lower capital gains rates.
  • Limit itemized deductions for the nation's highest earners.
  • Change the depreciation formula for corporate jets.
  • Repeal tax benefit for an inventory accounting practice used by many manufacturers.

The President is set to meet with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell this evening but such proposals would seem to be a non-starter, given the GOP's persistent opposition to any new taxes or so-called revenue raisers.

Earlier: When they walked out of the debt-ceiling talks last week, Republicans said their goal was to get President Obama engaged in the debate.

"We've reached the point where the dynamic needs to change," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor told The Wall Street Journal. "It is up to the president to come in and talk to the speaker. We've reached the end of this phase."

Republicans kept up the pressure on the Sunday talk shows. "I think if the president's made a mistake here, it's this laid-back kind of approach where he's waiting for someone else to solve the problem," New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said on NBC's Meet the Press. "You can't negotiate through a secondary person."

Mission accomplished.

On Monday, President Obama is scheduled to meet separately with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in an effort to break the impasse. Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to join the meetings, to be held at the Oval Office.

Ahead of his scheduled meeting this afternoon, Sen. McConnell penned an op-ed for CNN that gets to the heart of the debate: "America does not face a debt crisis because we tax too little, but because Washington spends too much. And tax hikes can't pass the Congress. Not only is there bipartisan opposition, the consequences of massive new tax hikes would be fewer jobs."

On the other hand, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says Democrats won't support a deal that doesn't include a reduction in tax subsidies, a view echoed by White House Press Secretary Jay Carney: "The president is willing to make tough choices but he cannot ask the middle class and seniors to bear all the burden for deficit reduction and sacrifice while millionaires and billionaires ... are let off the hook." (See: Debt Ceiling Debate: The GOP Is "Blackmailing the American People," Sen. Bernie Sanders Says)

This may all be posturing, but it appears the political battles lines are hardening as the Aug. 2 deadline approaches. No one really knows what will happen, but both Moody's and Fitch say America's triple-A rating would be at risk if the deadline comes and goes without a vote to increase the debt ceiling. Such a downgrade could cost investors in Treasuries $100 billion and raise America's annual interest payments, according to analysts at S&P Valuation and Risk Strategies.

Meanwhile, Republican Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann of Minnesota added her name to the growing list of politicians who say they won't vote to raise the debt ceiling — and that it's no big deal anyway.

"It isn't true that the government would default on its debt," Bachmann said on CBS's Face The Nation. "It is scare tactics...[Treasury] can very simply pay the interest on the debt first, then we're not in default."

Aaron Task is the host of The Daily Ticker. You can follow him on Twitter at @atask or email him at altask@yahoo.com

For additional coverage of the debt ceiling debate, see:

U.S. Hits the Debt Ceiling: What Does It All Mean?

Debt Ceiling Deadline Pushed Back: Will the GOP Budge?

Rep. Levin: GOP "Playing With Fire" On Debt Ceiling Vote

Debt Ceiling Vote a "Political Sideshow", Mish Says: Real Issue Is "Govt. Spending Run Amok"

Driving for a Debt-Ceiling Deal: Good Vibes Follow Obama-Boehner Golf Outing

Debt Ceiling Uncertainty: Big Banks Take Evasive Action

"No Downside" to Not Raising the Debt Ceiling, Says Chris Whalen