Obama to meet Congress leaders Thursday on debt

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 05, 2011 5:49 PM
Obama to meet Congress leaders Thursday on debt

By Steve Holland and Alister Bull

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Tuesday rejected proposals for a short-term deal to raise the U.S. debt limit, pressuring congressional leaders to reach a broad agreement within two weeks to avoid a government default by August 2.

Obama invited Democratic and Republican leaders of the U.S. Congress to the White House on Thursday to take stock of the stalled negotiations to reach a budget deal that would allow Congress to raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling.

The talks collapsed two weeks ago, and Republicans were skeptical that a new White House meeting would make much difference. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner "questions the usefulness of the meeting," said an aide to the top Republican in Congress.

Democrats and Republicans cannot agree on how to solve the impasse. Democrats are insisting that some tax increases be included while Republicans say that would hurt the fragile U.S. economy and instead are urging deep spending cuts.

Republican Senator John Cornyn over the weekend floated the idea of a short-term measure to lift the debt ceiling for six to eight months in order to meet the August 2 deadline while congressional negotiators work on a broader agreement.

Obama said he did not share that view.

"We know that it's going to require tough decisions. I think it's better for us to take those tough decisions sooner rather than later. And that's what the American people expect of us, that's what a healthy economy is going to require, that's the kind of progress that I expect to make," he said.

Congress must raise the U.S. borrowing limit to avoid a default that could push the United States back into recession and send financial markets plummeting. The U.S. Treasury has said it will run out of money by August 2 to pay all of the country's bills.

But with the talks in an impasse, neither side has come forward with the kind of compromise that will be needed and instead have been engaging in political posturing.

Obama said he had a series of discussions with congressional leaders from both parties over the July 4 holiday weekend.

"We've made progress, and I believe that greater progress is within sight. But I don't want to fool anybody, we still have to work through some real differences," he said.

On Capitol Hill, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid said he would stage a vote on a nonbinding resolution that would call on millionaires to "make a more meaningful contribution to the deficit reduction effort."

(Additional reporting by Andy Sullivan, Thomas Ferraro, Laura MacInnis, Jeff Mason and Caren Bohan; editing )