Debt negotiations resume briefly Saturday at White House
WASHINGTON (AP) — One day after a partisan blowup, President Barack Obama met for less than an hour Saturday with congressional leaders in crisis talks aimed at averting a national financial default in just 10 days.
Neither the president nor the lawmakers spoke to reporters allowed briefly into the Cabinet Room before the meeting at the White House. The president was flanked at the bargaining table by Republican House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. Also at the table were Vice President Joe Biden, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Friday night, a visibly irritated Obama had summoned congressional leaders from both parties to find a way to raise the debt limit before an Aug. 2 deadline cuts off the government's borrowing authority. Boehner announced Friday he was abandoning the talks he had had for weeks with Obama, but he agreed to attend with the others on Saturday.
The president devoted his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday to the impasse and urged Republicans to make a deal.
"We can come together for the good of the country and reach a compromise. We can strengthen our economy and leave for our children a more secure future," the president said. "Or we can issue insults and demands and ultimatums at each another, withdraw to our partisan corners and achieve nothing."
Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas said in his party's weekly address that the Democrats were to blame.
"If we're going to avoid any type of default and downgrade — if we're going to resume job creation in America — the president and his allies need to listen to the people and work with Republicans to cut up the credit cards once and for all," he said.
Boehner and McConnell also criticized Obama and the Democrats before the latest talks began.
"If the White House won't get serious, we will," Boehner's office said. A statement from the office noted that Obama has said he wants an agreement that will take care of the problem through the November 2012 elections.
"It would be terribly unfortunate if the president was willing to veto a debt limit increase simply because its timing would not be ideal for his re-election campaign," according to Boehner's office.
McConnell said in a statement that it was "disappointing that the talks with the White House did not reach a favorable conclusion, and I appreciate the speaker insisting on reduced spending and opposing the president's call for higher taxes on American families and job creators."
At a news conference Friday after Boehner said he was withdrawing, Obama told reporters, "We have run out of time and they are going to have to explain to me how it is that we are going to avoid default.
Boehner accepted the invitation for Saturday's meeting even while arguing that Obama bore the blame for the collapse.
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