Shortly after the meeting was over, both camps put out identical and expectable statements, The Huffington Post reports.
“The President and Speaker had a frank meeting in the Oval Office tonight,” said the statements. “It lasted approximately 50 minutes. There will be no further readout of the meeting, but lines of communication remain open.”
This night’s meeting marked the second time in a week Barack Obama and Boehner have met in person, and comes after at least two phone calls in recent days.
The talks provide some rays of hope to a negotiating process that, in recent days, has shown very little progress.
“The president and I had a pretty frank conversation about just how far apart we are,” Boehner has earlier said.
“I remain the most optimistic person in this town,” Boehner added, “but we’ve got some serious differences.”
The Speaker has earlier refused to budge from his refusal to consider raising tax rates on wealthy Americans at the same time insisting that heavy spending cuts are needed.
The White House, on the contrary, has accused House Republican leadership of being deliberately vague on cuts, while reiterating that no deal will be reached without the president’s signature without raising of tax rates.
In a recent interview with Minnesota CBS affiliate WCCO, the U.S. president was asked whether “trust” has been an issue while negotiating with Boehner.
“You know, my sense is, it’s less an issue of trust and this has more to do with politics,” Obama responded. “I think the idea of not raising taxes has become sort of a religion for a lot of members of the Republican Party.”
“I think Speaker Boehner has a contentious caucus, as his caucus is tough on him sometimes so he doesn’t want to look like he’s giving in to me somehow because that might hurt him in his own caucus,” he added.
With the set new-year deadline for all rates to expire and $1 trillion in spending cuts to kick in, the prospect of reaching agreement is coming into focus.
A top Senate Democratic aide revealed to reporters on Thursday that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told his caucus that finalizing a deal by Christmas was impossible.
Meanwhile, the Speaker asked lawmakers not to make plans for Christmas, which could probably mean that there may not realistically be a final deal until the very end of the month.
“We were encouraged not to make any plans for the holidays,” Rep. Walter Jones revealed after the Republicans’ weekly caucus meeting.
“He just said just don’t make plans,” confirmed Rep. Peter King, adding that the implication was that members would need to be in Washington in case a vote was taken.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney refused to comment whether Obama is also bracing for dragged out negotiations.
“I can’t speculate about the time frame. What the president is interested in is working with Congress to achieve a deal that avoids the fiscal cliff and, beyond that, addresses our long-term fiscal challenges in a balanced way.”
Carney went on, adding: “He wants to makes sure, first and foremost, that the middle class does not have their taxes go up on January 1st.”