In a dire assessment, White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer told CBS Radio News, "We are seven days away from an unprecedented financial event in this country's history, one that could potentially put us towards a depression because the House Republicans led by Speaker Boehner are unwilling to compromise one inch." (listen to the interview above)
Pfeiffer added, "Right now the ball is in Speaker Boehner's court. "
The White House communications chief said Boehner is pushing a bill "that would do tremendous damage to our economy." that includes a short-term bill to reduce spending by approximately $1.2 billion while extending the debt ceiling for about six months.
President Obama has rejected that approach. Even as he repeated his call for a plan to lower deficits with spending cuts and new revenues, the presidentthat would cut deficits by about $2.7 trillion over a decade exclusively with spending cuts.
Accepting a plan that excludes a revenue component would be a significant retreat from the president's strategy. Pfeiffer framed the president's revised stand as an endorsement of a compromise proposal. Despite the exclusion of some of the president's cherished revenue goals, Pfeiffer described the Reid plan as "a serious proposal to reduce spending. It's also designed to be able to pass both bodies of Congress."
The top White House aide reiterated the president's commitment to end the Bush era tax cuts for the wealthy. Pfeiffer said either Congress will work with the administration to get rid of the cuts or "he has a veto pen to ensure they end" when they are set to expire next year.
Pfeiffer again insisted default is "something we can not allow to happen." But following last night's dueling Obama-Boehner speeches to the nation, the two sides appear to remain far apart on a solution to the approaching crisis, perhaps farther apart than ever.
As University of Virginia political expert Larry Sabato told CBS Radio, "The only thing that they [Obama and Boehner] agreed on is that the United States will not default. The big question we all have is how are they going to make sure that's not going to happen? They didn't tell us."
From CBS MoneyWatch.com: