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Senate Prepares for Thursday's White House Meeting on Debt Ceiling

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- On the eve of Thursday’s White House meeting where a bicameral, bipartisan group of members of Congress will meet with President Obama to negotiate how to raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling, the rhetoric on the Hill Wednesday continued to set the stage for a showdown at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Wednesday said that the result of these negotiations will “determine the character” of the Republican Party.

“Will they be the party that came to Washington to help govern, to craft solutions to difficult issues facing this nation in cooperation with patriots on both sides of the aisle?” Reid questioned on the Senate floor, “Or will they be the kind of single-issue, ideological party who walks away from reasonable compromise for the sake of politics?”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said that Thursday’s meeting will be a chance to “see if the president means what he says.”

“It's an opportunity to see if the president is finally willing to agree on a serious plan to pay our bills without killing jobs in the process,” McConnell said on the Senate floor, “Until now, the president's proposals have been inadequate and frankly indefensible.”

At issue is still the divide over taxes.

Democrats insist any deal must include an increase in revenues, including eliminating tax breaks for some companies and the wealthiest Americans. Republicans are staunchly against this position, and McConnell Wednesday said that it is “ludicrous” for the administration to propose raising hundreds of billions in taxes at a time when 14 million Americans are still looking for work.

Democrats stayed entranced in their position, playing a populist note on who needs to sacrifice more. But not all Democrats agree with the Democratic leadership. At least one Democrat spoke up Wednesday and joined Republicans in calling for spending cuts and no tax increases in the final deal.

“Debt reduction should focus on spending cuts," said Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson.  "I want to see a broad and serious package of spending cuts. And we can cut trillions of dollars of spending without attacking Medicare and Social Security. But if we start with plans to raise taxes, pretty soon spending cuts will fall by the wayside.”   Nelson, one of the more conservative senators in the Democratic caucus, made his comments during his weekly conference call with Nebraska reporters.

Similarly, not all Republicans agree with the Republican leadership.

Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., Wednesday said that Republicans should agree to certain tax increases and closing loopholes but only in return for an overall reduction in the corporate tax rate.  He also called for the negotiations to be broadcast on C-SPAN so that everyone could see the discussions.

In a throw-back to rhetoric of campaigns past, McCain also said that he needs to provide his own party with a little “straight talk,” and urged his fellow Republicans to abandon their insistence on a balanced budget amendment.

Leaders from both houses and from both parties will head to the White House Thursday to meet with President Obama.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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