Specter of Default Spurs Obama, Republicans to Meet

June 1, 2011
White House shuts out press to encourage 'open and frank exchange.'

President Obama today met with Republican lawmakers in the latest round of maneuvering in the debate over debt and spending that is rocking Washington politics.

House Republican leaders emerged from the talks saying they had told the president that they had one more window of opportunity to work together on crafting a deal to rein in the deficit. But they also told the Democrats to stop "demagoguing" their spending plans, as the clash over curtailing the huge U.S. government budget deficit rumbled on. No Press The White House kept the press out of the talks to promote an "open and frank exchange" and to forestall the political posturing that typically occurs when television cameras are present. Obama spokesman Jay Carney on Tuesday said the president wanted to talk and listen to the House Republican conference, many of whose members are resistant to the administration's push to raise the U.S. debt ceiling. The White House says that failure to raise the $14.2 trillion limit that the government can borrow could result in Washington being unable to pay its debts and be calamitous for the U.S. economy. Republicans exiting the meeting laid out a line that appeared to hint at little progress over the debt ceiling with Obama. "It was an opportunity for clearly our members to communicate directly with the president about our ideas, about how to get the economy going again," said Republican House speaker John Boehner. "I told the president, one more time, this is the moment, this is the window of opportunity when we can deal with this on our terms." Wide Gaps Remain Eric Cantor, the No. 2 House Republican, indicated that wide gaps remain between the sides. "The discussion really focused on the philosophical difference on whether Washington should continue to pump money into the economy or we should provide an incentive for entrepreneurs and small businesses to grow," he said. "I think the president was well aware and admitted the fact that private-sector job creation is not enough." The meeting went ahead after new data by payrolls firm ADP reported the nonfarm private sector added 38,000 jobs in May, well below the consensus estimate of 170,000. Meanwhile another top Republican, Paul Ryan, told Democrats to stop "demagoguing" his budget plan, which seeks savings from spending on the popular Medicare health program for senior citizens. On Tuesday, Carney invoked the name of a conservative hero to press the case that Republicans should act on the debt ceiling before an Aug. 2 deadline. "I would point them also to President Ronald Reagan, who wrote in 1983 ... 'the full consequences of a default, or even the serious prospect of default by the United States are impossible to predict and awesome to contemplate,'" Carney said. "We agree with Ronald Reagan and many others that we cannot default on the full faith and credit of the United States." Republican Measure Fails Obama's meeting with Republicans took place a day after the House on Tuesday voted against raising the U.S. borrowing cap without making cuts in spending. Republicans set up the vote they knew would lose -- on raising the debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion without a corresponding trim in spending -- to show they were serious about getting the budget shortfall under control. The measure was voted down 318-97, with many Democrats siding with Republicans to avoid being branded as blocking austerity measures that gloomy voters seem to favor after an era of out-of-control spending. Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011
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