U.S. House Speaker John Boehner insists the next debt-ceiling increase must be matched by spending cuts, even if President Obama mends fences with Republicans.
The Ohio Republican said he welcomed Obama's new outreach effort, even though it sidestepped him and other congressional leaders and was directly with rank-and-file lawmakers.
Obama had dinner with 12 GOP senators Wednesday and lunch with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., the committee's most senior Democrat, Thursday.
"After being in office four years, he's actually going to sit down and talk to members," Boehner said in feigned disbelief.
Still, he added in a more serious tone, "I think it's a sign, a hopeful sign. And I'm hopeful that something will come out of it."
But he said he still wouldn't support raising the debt ceiling without matching spending cuts, rapprochement or no rapprochement.
If Boehner's position leads to a confrontation when the borrowing limit expires, the showdown would likely happen in spring or summer, The Wall Street Journal said.
The Treasury is expected to reach its $16.4 trillion borrowing limit in May. Officials are then expected to juggle assets to let Washington continue borrowing for a couple of months. But the debt-ceiling increase will likely be required by July, the Journal said.
Obama and some GOP members have said they'd be willing to talk about cutting the deficit through an approach that would include overhauling the tax code and slowing the growth of entitlement spending on programs such as Medicare and Social Security.
"There was a common belief that entitlements need to be reformed and the tax code needs to be modernized," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told reporters.
But "the details may trip us up," he said.
Potential obstacles include the White House's push for tax changes that result in a net rise in revenue, which many GOP lawmakers oppose. At the same time, many Republicans want to overhaul entitlement programs in ways that are more drastic than Democrats like.
"It's going to be hard," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Thursday. "I do not want to in any way suggest that this is a sure thing. It is far from that.
"But the president believes it's important and that the American people expect that he and other leaders in Washington come together and have these discussions."