Obama reports progress in debt talks, calls for next meeting on Sunday

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 07: U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the media after meeting with Congressional Leaders, on July 7, 2011 in Washington, DC. President Obama said that he has asked he both Democrat and Republican Congressional leaders to continue work through the weekend on a massive debt-reduction deal and return back to the White House on Sunday. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images) Mark Wilson

President Barack Obama addresses the media after meeting with Congressional Leaders, on July 7, 2011 in Washington, DC. President Obama said that he has asked he both Democrat and Republican Congressional leaders to continue work through the weekend on a massive debt-reduction deal and return back to the White House on Sunday.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

President Obama said today that his meeting with congressional leaders over the debt limit and debt reduction was constructive, but significant differences of opinion remain between Democrats and Republicans.

He said leaders would meet again on Sunday, when he expects party leaders to at least have the parameters for negotiations set.

At today's White House meeting, "people were frank," Mr. Obama said. "We discussed the various options available. We've reconfirmed the importance of completing our work and raising the debt ceiling."

Leaders from both parties came into the meeting "in a spirit of compromise," the president continued. Still, he said, "nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to, and the parties are still far apart on a wide range of issues."

Mr. Obama met with congressional leaders today seeking a deal that includes $4 trillion in budget savings over a decade. Republicans have insisted on creating a deficit and debt reduction plan as a condition of voting to raise the debt ceiling -- the amount of money that Congress is technically allowed to borrow.

The president and his economic team have repeatedly warned of catastrophic consequences for the U.S. and global economy if Congress does not increase the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling by August 2.

Mr. Obama said today that leaders and staffers would work through their differences over the weekend, in preparation for another White House meeting on Sunday. That meeting, he said, will be held "with the expectation at that point the party leaders will at least know where each others' bottom lines are and will hopefully then be in a position to start engaging in the hard bargaining that's necessary to get a deal done."

Vice President Joe Biden had been leading debt reduction talks for weeks, so White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said later, "there is an understanding of where we stand, what the issue are."

Carney said that the president requested the party leaders come back with their "bottom line" because there was a certain level of negotiation that did not occur at today's meeting. No negotiators said, "this is as far as I will go on this, this is how far I will go on that," Carney said.

The next meeting is taking place on Sunday, Carney said, since the Aug. 2 deadline is so quickly approaching.

"Without putting a date on it, we're in the end game here," he said.

As for the differences that divide Democrats and Republicans, the GOP has so far resisted calls to raise tax revenues by closing certain tax loopholes and raise taxes on the highest-earning Americans. Democrats, meanwhile, are upset that Mr. Obama is open to possibly cutting Social Security as part of the deal. Carney said today that the president is interested in reforming Social Security in a way that "preserves the integrity of the program and doesn't slash benefits."

When pressed by a reporter about the term "slash," Carney acknowledged that it refers to significant cuts. When pressed further about whether that means the president is opposed to "cutting" or "slashing" Social Security, Carney said, "It's slash."

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