House Speaker John Boehner requested that negotiations be between the president and himself. [Link]
All sides, even the parties excluded, say clearing the negotiating room improves the chance of success. It adds complexity as the two negotiators consult separately with the leaders not in the room. But it also minimizes the number of people who need to say yes to an initial agreement.
"This is now the speaker and the president working this through," said Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the Senate's No. 2 Democrat.
White House aides and the speaker's staff, by mutual agreement, have largely shut down public communication about the talks to avert hundreds of billions of dollars in automatic tax increases and spending cuts set to begin in January if no deal can be reached. Both sides said on Thursday that lines of communication remained open.