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Debt Ceiling Negotiations Continue Behind the Scenes

On Sunday, White House Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew said that progress is being made on debt ceiling talks behind the scenes even though there have not been any formal discussions between GOP leadership and President Obama.

Lew said "quite a bit has been going on" since a meeting on Thursday at the White House with President Barack Obama and Republican and Democratic congressional leaders.

Lew also said that Obama is still pushing for a kind of "grand bargain" that would include tax increases. Obama has, however, repeatedly insisted that a deal to raise the debt ceiling be made to run through the 2012 election. Raising the ceiling is an unpopular policy that highlights the fiscal largesse of the federal government, and Obama wants to avoid another high-profile fight.

Reports are that the Cut, Cap and Balance plan being pushed by GOP leaders will at least give conservative Republicans a chance to spell out their desires for how the federal budget should be handled in the future. And that that is what might be necessary to get them on board with a more modest debt increase deal.

By giving Tea Party conservatives in the House of Representatives a chance to take their favored legislation as far as it will go, House Speaker John Boehner may buy himself some needed goodwill from a vocal segment of his party that has sometimes viewed his deal-making efforts with suspicion.

GOP leadership are playing a difficult political game. They've emphasized time and again that they want to see the ceiling raised, which is in sharp contrast to a good number of House conservatives who say they'll vote against any increase for any reason.

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