White House hosts sullen debt meeting

July 23, 2011 at 2:57 PM
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WASHINGTON, July 23 (UPI) -- As the critical debt deadline neared, a meeting between congressional leaders and President Obama Saturday lasted less than an hour, the White House said.

The government has to raise the nation's $14.3 trillion debt ceiling by Aug. 2 or the nation would go into default on about a third of its bills, the U.S. Treasury Department has warned.

At the meeting, "The president restated his opposition to a short-term extension of the debt ceiling, explaining that a short-term extension could cause our country's credit rating to be downgraded, causing harm to our economy and causing every American to pay higher credit cards rates and more for home and car loans," a White House statement said. "As the current situation makes clear, it would be irresponsible to put our country and economy at risk again in just a few short months with another battle over raising the debt ceiling. Congress should refrain from playing reckless political games with our economy. Instead, it should be responsible and do its job, avoiding default and cutting the deficit."

The statement said congressional leaders "agreed to return to Capitol Hill to talk to their members and discuss a way forward, and conversations will continue throughout the day."

Saturday's meeting brought together Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

"We need an approach that makes some serious cuts to worthy programs -- cuts I wouldn't make under normal circumstances," the president said in his Saturday address. "So, that means, yes, we have to make serious budget cuts; but that it's not right to ask middle class families to pay more for college before we ask the biggest corporations to pay their fair share of taxes."

He also warned, 10 days before the deadline, that, "We can issue insults and demands and ultimatums at each another, withdraw to our partisan corners, and achieve nothing."

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