Obama on debt talks: "We are in the 11th hour"

President Barack Obama discusses the continuing budget talks, Tuesday, July 19, 2011, in the the briefing room of the White House in Washington.
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Updated: 2:15 p.m. ET

President Obama warned on Wednesday that "we are in the eleventh hour" on the debt ceiling debate, and urged Congress to act swiftly to move forward with a plan, recently put forward by the so-called "Gang of Six" senators, that he said was "broadly consistent with the approach I have urged."

The president, speaking to reporters at the White House ahead of Press Secretary Jay Carney's regularly scheduled briefing, praised the newly reunited Gang of Six for creating the plan, which he said included both revenue increases and budget cuts.

"The framework they put forward is broadly consistent with what we've been working on here in the White House," Mr. Obama emphasized, and said he thought it was a "very significant step" that represented "the potential for bipartisan consensus" on reaching a compromise on raising the debt limit.

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"What it says is we've got to be serious about reducing discretionary spending, both in domestic spending and defense. We've got to be serious about tackling health care spending and entitlements in a serious way, and we've got to have some additional revenue so that we have an approach in which there is shared sacrifice, and everybody is giving up something," Mr. Obama said of the proposal. "For Republican senators to acknowledge that revenues will have to be part of a balanced package that makes sure that nobody is disproportionately hurt from us making progress on the debt and deficits, I think is a very significant step."

Mr. Obama reiterated, however, that there was little time to waste, and called on congressional leadership to act quickly.

"We now have a bipartisan group of senators who agree with that balanced approach, and we've got the American people who agree with that balanced approach," he said. "My hope, and what I will be urging Speaker Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, as well as Leader Reid and Mitch McConnell, is that they tomorrow are prepared to start talking turkey and actually getting down to the hard business of crafting a plan that can move this forward in time for the August 2nd deadline that we've set forward."

Referencing an upcoming House voteon a deficit reduction plan that would require passing a constitutional amendment to balance the federal budget, Mr. Obama noted that "we don't have a lot more time left."

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"I think everyone's estimation is that that is not an approach that would pass both chambers, it's not an approach that I would sign and it's not balanced," Mr. Obama said, of the Republican "cut, cap and balance" plan.

While noting that "I understand the need for [Republicans] to test that proposition," the president added that "the problem we have now is we're in the 11th hour."

"I think it's very important for these -- in these next couple of days to understand we don't have any more time to engage in symbolic gestures, we don't have any more time to posture," he said. "It's time to get down to the business of actually solving this problem. And I think we now are seeing the potential for a bipartisan consensus around what that would take."

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The president added that in the meantime, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell would continue to work on hammering out the details of a so-called "last-choice" optionthat would essentially give Mr. Obama the power to raise the debt ceiling while allowing Republicans to vote against it. 

"Our attitude is that that continues to be a necessary approach to put forward," Mr. Obama told reporters. "In the event that we don't get an agreement, at minimum we've got to raise the debt ceiling. So that's the bare minimum that has to be achieved, but we continue to believe that we can achieve more."