In an angry speech on the Senate floor, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Republicans and Democrats were tantalizingly close to an agreement to resolve the debt ceiling standoff over the weekend -- until President Obama nixed the deal. "A bipartisan plan to resolve this crisis was literally within our reach this weekend," McConnell said. "We offered the president a bipartisan proposal to avoid default so that we could have the time we need to put together a serious plan for getting our house in order. He rejected it out of hand."
McConnell says that after Obama's angry news conference late Friday afternoon, House and Senate Republican and Democratic leaders "got together and decided we needed to come up with a way forward on our own, and that's just what we did." But Obama said no, reportedly in a White House meeting with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Sunday.
"As of Saturday afternoon, I had no doubt that a solution was at hand," McConnell said. "The responsible path forward was clear to everyone -- a plan that avoided default and required additional savings before any further increase in the debt ceiling. Leaders from both parties agreed that this was the right path forward legislatively. The only thing to do at that point was to present this bipartisan solution to the president. And what was the president's response? Well, unfortunately to demand the largest single debt limit increase in history."
"Not for economic reasons," McConnell continued, "but as he put it, quote 'to extend this debt ceiling through the next election.'"
Over the weekend, staff from Reid's office worked with staff from McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner to craft a bill with spending cuts and a debt ceiling increase. "[Reid] and his staff were writing the bill with us," says a senior Republican. "Edit after edit after edit." The Republican says the bipartisan work continued until Reid returned from the White House early Sunday evening and pulled out of the effort.