President Barack Obama has appealed for public support to push Congress to avert an unprecedented default on America’s national debt as politicians worked on dual tracks to reach an elusive deal.
Mr Obama wants politicians to approve a giant package that would not only prevent a default by raising the government’s borrowing limit, but also slash trillions of dollars from the country’s enormous deficit.
He challenged them “to do something big”.
But opposition Republicans, who control the House of Representatives, reject Mr Obama’s proposal to raise some taxes in addition to cutting spending.
They plan to vote next week on legislation that would tie an increase in the debt limit to a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget. Such an amendment is unlikely to get enacted.
In the Senate, the Republican and Democratic leaders worked on a bipartisan plan that would allow Mr Obama to raise the debt limit without a prior vote by politicians.
The talks focused on how to address long-term deficit reduction in the proposal in hopes of satisfying House Republicans.
As a critical August 2 deadline approached, the chances that Mr Obama would get four trillion or even two trillion US dollars in deficit reduction on terms he preferred were quickly fading as Congress moved to take control of the debate.
At a news conference on Friday, Mr Obama opened the door to a smaller package of deficit reductions without revenue increases.
Mr Obama’s communications director, Dan Pfeiffer, said the president, Vice President Joe Biden and White House aides were discussing “various options” with congressional leaders and House and Senate aides from both parties.
The White House held out the possibility of arranging a meeting with the leaders today.
In his weekly radio and internet address, Mr Obama appealed to the public in hopes of influencing a deal that talks have failed to produce so far.
“We have to ask everyone to play their part because we are all part of the same country,” Mr Obama said, pushing a combination of spending cuts and tax increases that has met stiff resistance from Republicans. “We are all in this together.”
Mr Obama said the wealthiest must “pay their fair share”. He invoked budget deals negotiated by Republican President Ronald Reagan and Democratic House Speaker Tip O’Neill, and Democratic President Bill Clinton and Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich.
“You sent us to Washington to do the tough things, the right things,” he said. “Not just for some of us, but for all of us.”