Boehner’s message was that “we were going to wait for the Senate to take up the bill that we passed six months ago,” said one Republican lawmaker who was on the call. “Quit trying to do this leadership-negotiating thing.”
The day was rife with rumors of behind-the-scenes movement, evidence of the anxious energy that has gripped Washington as the deadline approaches.
The first round of excitement came when McConnell sent an e-mail to Republican senators suggesting that Obama “would finally be proposing a package to avoid the cliff and I agreed to review it,” according to a copy of the e-mail given to The Washington Post.
Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., posted a note on his Facebook page announcing the pending offer as he was boarding a plane from Boston to Washington, and a frenzied media scurried for details.
White House officials and Senate Democrats denied that a new proposal was forthcoming. But McConnell continued to insist throughout the day that he was eager to review the new offer. Ultimately, both parties confirmed that quiet talks were underway between aides to McConnell and senior White House officials, but that the details were in flux.
The scope of the package under discussion appeared to follow the contours Obama laid out Friday in a news conference where he urged Congress to extend expiring tax cuts for 98 percent of taxpayers and to keep benefits flowing to about 2 million long-term unemployed. In addition, aides said, talks were focused on preserving low tax rates for inherited estates and extending tax breaks for college tuition and the working poor adopted as part of Obama’s 2009 economic stimulus package.
But aides said that time had probably run out for an agreement on significant spending cuts or to lift the legal limit on government borrowing, which will have to be done within the next two months.