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Obama Meets With Congressional Leaders to Revive Stalled Debt Talks

President Barack Obama meets with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, right, and House Speaker John Boehner, left, in the Cabinet Room of the White House, July 23, 2011

President Barack Obama and congressional leaders met Saturday at the White House, to revive stalled negotiations on averting a U.S. debt crisis. The brief meeting followed Friday’s breakdown of talks between the president and House Speaker John Boehner.

President Obama and grim-faced Republican and Democratic leaders met for 49 minutes, looking for ways to salvage progress that had been made in the previous days.

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The president demanded the meeting on Friday, after his talks with Speaker Boehner, the top Republican in the House of Representatives, broke down. Mr. Obama said time had run out. “I expect them to have an answer, in terms of how they intend to get this thing done over the course of the next week. The American people expect action," he said.

After Saturday’s meeting, a White House statement said the congressional leaders agreed to return to Capitol Hill to talk with lawmakers in their parties about possible options.

Meanwhile, the president and the lawmakers are expected to work through the weekend, toward a deal to prevent the U.S. government from defaulting on its debt on August 2.

The U.S. has ten days to raise its $14.3 trillion debt ceiling, to allow the government to continue borrowing money to meet its obligations.

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Republicans refuse to raise the debt ceiling without a significant reduction in the deficit. They intend to accomplish the reduction through budget cuts alone, while Democrats insist on increasing tax revenue, which Republicans reject.

Speaker Boehner and other Republicans have said they would accept a six-month increase in the debt ceiling. The president said again Saturday he wants any agreement to last until after the November, 2012 election.

Mr. Obama said Friday the breakdown in his talks with Boehner showed the urgency of reaching a long-term debt deal. “We have now seen how difficult it is to get any kind of deal done. The economy is already weakened, and the notion that five or six or eight months from now we will be in a better position to try to solve this problem makes no sense," he said.

The prospect of a U.S. default has caused a great deal of concern among credit rating agencies and financial markets. But both sides in the talks have expressed confidence that the debt limit will be raised.

Mr. Obama was joined at Saturday’s meeting by top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid and Vice President Joe Biden, as well as Boehner and McConnell.