Debt Limit Limbo

There is a certain rhythm to the way things get done on Capitol Hill - and to the way things don't get done. And right now in the halls of Congress, there is almost no momentum when it comes to a deal on the budget and debt limit.

Since last Thursday, when Republicans walked out of talks led by Vice President Biden, both sides have been firing verbal broadsides at each other, and digging their political trenches even deeper.

Republicans have made clear they won't accept any deal that raises tax revenues in any form.

Democrats and the White House have made it clear they won't accept any deal unless it includes new tax revenues, by closing loopholes and ending certain tax subsidies.

With the House out of session this week, that left Senators as the focus in this debate, and neither side disappointed, as they pointed fingers and blasted each other on the Senate floor and in the hallways.

"When you say no taxes should be on the table, are you saying we shouldn't close corporate loopholes?" said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), who made a series of very personal attacks in a floor speech on the Senate Republican leader over the GOP refusal to consider new taxes.

"The person standing in the way right now is Senator McConnell," Schumer said.

As for McConnell, he might be the recipient of even more jabs today, as President Obama will meet with Senate Democrats on the budget.

But not with Senate Republicans.

Meanwhile, there are some Senators who are trying to find common ground and help pave the way for a deal - but they are running into major flak.

That was clearly evident as Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) released a new plan to reform Medicare and save hundreds of billions by raising the retirement age to 67, raising premiums and forcing the wealthy to pay more for their coverage.

"The longer we wait to act, the more painful it's going to be," argued Coburn, who agreed that he and Lieberman were sort of a political odd couple before reporters.

Coburn's staff had hardly posted the plan's details on the Senator's web site when the attacks began raining down from Democrats.

"It is unfair to ask seniors to get less in benefits and wait longer to get onto Medicare," said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who labeled the plan "unacceptable."

A few minutes later, Sen. Harry Reid echoed that assessment, demonstrating just how difficult it is right now to bridge the gap between the parties.

And so, with less than five weeks now until the deadline announced by the Obama Administration, a deal on the budget and debt limit seems even more remote.

Brinksmanship is a way of life on Capitol Hill - that's how things get done - but right now, neither side seems ready to give in on anything.

In the end, I still think the reaction of the markets will determine when - or if - the Congress does anything real when it comes to a budget/debt limit deal.  Supposedly, the deadline is August 2, but there was talk yesterday that might change.

Stay tuned.