WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama asked congressional leaders Saturday to give him ideas for ending the debt limit impasse by late Saturday afternoon, according to a Democratic source who asked not to be named because he was involved in the delicate ongoing negotiations.
Obama and congressional leaders engaged in apparently futile last-ditch talks Saturday morning aimed at finding a way to break the deadlock over raising the nation's debt limit by the August 2 default deadline. The impasse threatens to panic financial markets, which could kick the weak U.S. economy back into recession.
Obama met with Republican House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California for 49 minutes Saturday morning. He said he would not accept a short-term deal that would require a repeat of this drama in a few months and told them to report back to him with details that could lead to an agreement.
No accord emerged, and no one said one was near.
Participants were largely stoic and grim-faced during and after the meeting, a far different mood than the anger that had erupted Friday after Boehner broke off talks toward a “grand bargain” of long-term deficit reduction along with raising the debt ceiling. Those talks failed because of unbridgeable gaps between the two partisan sides over taxes and spending cuts.
“The president wanted to know that there was a plan for preventing national default," said McConnell following the morning session. "The bipartisan leadership in Congress is committed to working on new legislation that will prevent default while substantially reducing Washington spending.”
Pelosi said much the same thing, and would offer no clues about progress.
"We've got to make every moment count," she said.
Pelosi was adamant about one point. Asked if she would accept a deal that included a short-term debt limit increase, she said, "Absolutely, positively not."