She didn't say so, but at the time, the two men were exchanging offers that called for at least $250 billion in cuts from Medicare over a decade, and another $100 billion from Medicaid and other federal health programs. Among the changes under discussion was a gradual increase in the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 67, as well as higher fees for beneficiaries.
Also on the table at the time was a plan to curtail future cost-of-living increases for Social Security and other benefit programs.
Those negotiations faltered in a hail of recriminations after the president upped his demand for additional tax revenue and conservatives balked. At the same time, liberals were objecting to savings from Medicare and Social Security.
Now, more than a year and one election later, Obama has said repeatedly he is open to alternatives to his current proposal to raise additional tax revenue. But he also says he will refuse to sign legislation that extends the current top rates on incomes over $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for couples.
Instead, he is pushing Congress to renew expiring tax cuts for all income below those levels as an interim measure - an offer Boehner and Republicans generally say is unacceptable because it would mean higher taxes on small business owners.
Bowles said during the day that Obama might be willing to back off his demand that the top rate revert all the way from 35 percent to 39.6 percent, where it was a decade ago before tax cuts sought by then-President George W. Bush took effect.
At the White House, spokesman Jay Carney sidestepped questions. "If I told you how much flexibility the president had, it would eliminate his flexibility," he said.
He noted that Obama has said he will listen to alternatives, but the spokesman said, "The most basic, simplest, most efficient way to achieve that revenue target is by returning the rates for top earners back to those that were in place in the Clinton era," when the top rate on personal income was 39.6 percent.
The goal of the talks is to produce a long-term deficit-cutting deal that will allow the cancellation of tax increases and spending cuts scheduled for the end of the year that numerous economists say threaten a new recession.