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Possible Compromise in Works over US Debt Limit

President Barack Obama discusses the continuing budget talks, Tuesday, July 19, 2011, in the the briefing room of the White House in Washington.

President Barack Obama says a proposal by a group of Republican and Democratic senators represents a significant step toward a possible compromise on cutting government deficit spending and raising the debt ceiling.

Speaking to reporters in the White House briefing room, Mr. Obama said his most recent talks with congressional leaders produced some progress and "some narrowing of the issues."

Saying time is running out and negotiations are "in the 11th hour" he described the new plan by the so-called "Gang of Six" senators as a very significant step with the potential for getting the sides closer to a compromise. "What it says is we have got to be serious about reducing discretionary spending, both in domestic spending and defense, we have got to be serious about tackling health care spending and entitlements in a serious way, and we have got to have some additional revenue," he said.

Mr. Obama said the White House had just received the plan, which he also described as a "framework". While some of its details might not match perfectly with some of his approaches, he said "we are in the same playing field."

The president said he hopes that on Wednesday, congressional leaders will be ready to get down to the hard business of crafting a plan for cutting deficits and raising the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling.

At the same time, the president said there is a need to keep a backup plan that the Senate minority and majority leaders, Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell, were working on if a broader agreement is not reached.

In discussing his hope that the plan by the small bipartisan group of senators can lead to a compromise, Mr. Obama referred to what he called the need to put political posturing aside. "We don't have any more time to engage in symbolic gestures, we don't have any more time to posture, it's time to get down to the business of actually solving this problem," he said.

Mr. Obama said a lot of difficult negotiations lie ahead, adding that just because the White House might agree in principle with the framework from the bipartisan Senate group, a broader agreement will be required with a tight deadline facing everyone.