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Published: Thursday, 7/7/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Obama's allies, rivals visit White House for budget talks as clock ticks toward deadline

ASSOCIATED PRESS
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio listens at left as President Barack Obama speaks during a meeting Thursday with congressional leadership to discuss the debt. House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio listens at left as President Barack Obama speaks during a meeting Thursday with congressional leadership to discuss the debt.
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WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama says lawmakers of both parties agree on the importance of raising the debt limit by Aug. 2 and he will reconvene them Sunday to get down to the hard bargaining that's necessary to get a deal done.

Obama spoke at the White House Thursday after meeting with the top eight Republican and Democratic lawmakers in the House and Senate.

He said it was a constructive and frank meeting and the leaders brought a spirit of compromise and of wanting to solve problems on behalf of the American people. But he said the parties are still far apart on a wide range of issues.

Officials are seeking to cut trillions from the deficit to reach agreement on raising the nation's borrowing limit or face unprecedented default.

This is a developing story that updates the version below. Details will be published as they become available.

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama is pressing Democrats to support a higher deficit reduction proposal that could win Republican support for new tax revenue while reducing costs for major benefit programs such as Medicare and Social Security as the price to reach a deal on raising the government's debt limit.

Congressional leaders from both parties will go to the White House Thursday, hoping to move closer to a budget deal with less than four weeks to avert a first-ever default on U.S. financial obligations.

"I think there will be a spirit of trying to get results here," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said early Thursday.

While discussions on trimming the costs of entitlement programs had centered on Medicare, the health care program for older Americans, the White House is revisiting a proposal raised earlier in the negotiations to change the inflation measurement used to calculate Social Security cost-of-living adjustments, thus reducing annual increases.

The White House signaled Wednesday that the president is aiming for deficit reduction closer to $4 trillion over 10 years - an ambitious number that would nearly double the roughly $2 trillion that had been at the center of negotiations. Negotiations are gaining urgency by the day, because Republicans are insisting on major cuts to the deficit as the price for approving legislation to maintain the government's ability to borrow money and stave off a market-rattling default.

Democratic and Republican officials familiar with the discussions said Thursday that Social Security was in the mix for potential cost savings. Reintroducing the retirement program to the talks is likely to cause anxiety among congressional Democrats who have insisted that Social Security does not contribute to the nation's deficit problems.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks. They stressed that no aspect of the deal had been accepted by either side.

One official said that an option under discussion would allow Republicans to make a commitment to overhaul and simplify the tax system that would lower individual and corporate tax rates while closing loopholes, ending some deductions and limiting other tax subsidies. Those changes could generate tax revenue and was central element of a deficit reduction plan proposed by a bipartisan commission late last year.

That discussion also included lowering the costs of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Two Democratic officials allied with Obama said the president believes it would be easier to win bipartisan support in the House and Senate for a deal that embraces larger deficit cuts closer to the $4 trillion over 12 years that Obama proposed in April.

The officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the secret negotiations more freely, said the precise number was still in flux, but they said Obama would be making the case for more rather than less deficit reduction in his discussions with congressional leaders Thursday.

However, any larger figure would depend on agreement on a long-term deficit or spending cap, enforced by automatic spending cuts and, under Obama's proposals, a tax-increase "trigger" that would be tripped if targets were not met. Negotiations within the Biden-led group on the idea of spending caps and tax triggers had reached an impasse, however, a GOP aide familiar with the talks said.

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