Everyone keeps telling me “the Republicans won’t allow it to happen,” but I’m not so sure:
A group of Republican senators who have been meeting privately with top White House officials have concluded that they want to try again to reach a sweeping budget deal that would cut deficits and make changes to Medicare, according to participants in the meetings.
The Senate contingent met for more than two hours at the White House on Thursday and got an unexpected visitor. President Barack Obama joined the meeting in White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough’s office and stayed for about an hour.
The senators had been uncertain about whether to seek a more modest deal that would simply replace the across-the-board spending cuts known as the sequester, or to pursue a more ambitious “grand bargain” aimed at shoring up the major entitlement programs, among other goals.
Previous attempts to strike a grand bargain have faltered over familiar partisan disagreements over spending and taxes.
But the senators seem determined to try again.
Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) who is part of the group of eight GOP senators taking part in the talks, said in an interview after the session at the White House: “I think we’re looking at something larger than [replacing] the sequester.”
Another person familiar with the meeting said: “The sentiment in the room is that it has to be a bigger deal in order for both sides to buy into it and to prove to the markets that there is a long-term fiscal sustainability plan here.”
The senators have sent written proposals to the White House to review. Mr. Obama, in his appearance at the meeting, had clearly been briefed on the group’s work, Mr. Corker said.
“He is up to date on the kinds of things that an overall framework might look look like. He seemed very engaged,” Mr. Corker said.
The two sides agreed to find a way to meet during the August recess.