POLITICS

Debt ceiling talks go into weekend

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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama appealed to Democrats and Republicans to "make some political sacrifices" and take advantage of an extraordinary opportunity to tackle the government's budget crisis.

(Photo: Associated Press)

Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday that it will take a "balanced approach" that mixes limits on domestic programs and the Pentagon, curbs to Medicare and elimination of some tax breaks for the wealthy.

Obama spoke a day before hosting top lawmakers in both parties for a negotiating session at the White House

Even as the negotiators seek a grand deal to bring the deficit under control, Obama's Democratic allies and GOP rivals seem to find their options limited by months of angry rhetoric and political posturing.

Sharp divisions persist over increasing taxes and cutting public benefit programs. As a result, hopes have diminished for a deal on an ambitious plan to cut spiraling deficits by $4 trillion or more over the coming decade. Officials now say a smaller, $2 trillion agreement, appeared more doable.

"The good news is, we agree on some of the big things," Obama said. "We agree that after a decade of racking up deficits and debt, we finally need to get our fiscal house in order. We agree that to do that, both sides are going to have to step outside their comfort zones and make some political sacrifices."

The president was spending part of the weekend at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland. He left on Marine One on Saturday morning, accompanied by senior adviser Valerie Jarrett and family friend Eric Whitaker.

Obama was scheduled to return Sunday afternoon, several hours before his early evening meeting with congressional leaders.

On Friday, Obama's most important negotiating partner, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said that the two sides were far apart.

"It's not like there's some imminent deal about to happen," said Boehner. "There are serious disagreements about how to deal with this very serious problem."

Obama cited a bleak jobs report Friday in hopes of prodding Congress toward a swift agreement. But the higher unemployment numbers hardened the views of partisan lawmakers who think a weak economy can't tolerate added taxes or cuts in spending, essential parts for the broad deal that Obama seeks.

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