President Barack Obama and Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives are trading accusations after negotiations for a substantial deficit reduction and debt ceiling package broke down, at least temporarily. Obama said Republicans walked away from a deal, while a top Republican blamed the breakdown on the president.
Appearing in the White House briefing room with only a few minutes warning late Friday, a visibly angry and frustrated president said he had received a phone call just 30 minutes earlier from House Speaker Republican John Boehner.
He said Boehner informed him that he was walking away from negotiations for a big deficit- and debt-reduction package, which reports have said could be in the $3 trillion range of combined spending cuts and revenue.
Obama said he offered Boehner a package containing more than $1 trillion in cuts to domestic and defense discretionary spending, with an additional $650 billion in savings from major government entitlement programs, that would preserve their integrity.
The president said the White House was seeking revenues less than what the "Gang of Six" bipartisan group of senators proposed this week, and that he had taken "a lot of heat" from his own party.
Obama questioned why Boehner would walk away from "an extraordinarily fair deal."
"It is hard to understand why Speaker Boehner would walk away from this kind of deal, and frankly if you look at the commentary out there, there are a lot of Republicans who are puzzled as to why it couldn't get done," said the president.
Obama, who said he had trouble getting Boehner to return his phone call on Friday, has called Republican and Democratic leaders back to the White House on Saturday and expects them to supply a solution.
"I want them here at 11:00 tomorrow. We have run out of time, and they are going to have to explain to me how it is that we are going to avoid default," he said.
Obama warned again of the impacts for the U.S. credit rating if the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling is not raised, or if the debt limit is merely extended for another six months.
Toward the end of the dramatic appearance, he said he would sign an extension of the debt ceiling through 2013, but said he cannot believe Congress would be "that irresponsible" that they would not avoid a "self-inflicted wound" on the economy.
Appearing before reporters on Capitol Hill, Boehner accused President Obama of "moving the goal posts" and suddenly proposing some $400 billion in additional revenue that Boehner said amounted to nothing but a tax increase.
"I gave the president's proposal serious consideration," said Boehner. "But let's understand something, there was an agreement with the White House at $800 billion in revenue. It's the president who walked away from his agreement and demanded more money, at the last minute."
Boehner said he remains confident congressional leaders from both parties can come together and achieve an agreement next week to avoid a debt default.
The breakdown in negotiations came after U.S. markets had closed. Asked about the impact on Wall Street on Monday, Obama said he remains confident there will be an extension of the debt limit.
However, he said Americans facing hard economic times are "desperate" for leaders in Washington to put aside politics and "get something done."