LINDA WERTHEIMER, host: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer. The opening of financial markets later today in East Asia is causing anxiety in official Washington and beyond. The concern is that a Friday night breakdown in talks between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner on raising the debt ceiling may have negative repercussions when trading gets under way. All day yesterday, more meetings took place, first at the White House, then at the Capitol, seeking that elusive bipartisan deal. NPR's David Welna has this update.
DAVID WELNA: The four top congressional leaders all showed up at the White House for a late Saturday morning meeting convened by President Obama, and they all avoided contact with reporters afterward. The White House put out a statement reiterating President Obama's opposition to a short-term extension of the debt ceiling, saying it would cause the country's credit rating to be downgraded. It was likely in response to reports that such a short-term deal had been floated at the meeting by the two Republican leaders, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner. McConnell put out a statement saying only that the bipartisan congressional leadership was committed to working on new legislation to prevent default. And late in the afternoon, Speaker Boehner hosted a meeting in his office at the Capitol, flanked by McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on his right and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on his left. During a brief photo-op, Boehner blithely ignored reporters' questions.
Representative JOHN BOEHNER: Nice to see you all.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is there anything you could say to reassure the American public that you will get a deal before the deadline?
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
BOEHNER: It was nice to see you all.
WELNA: The two Democrats in the meeting, Reid and Pelosi, had just put out a statement saying they opposed any short-term fix for the debt ceiling crisis. The two of them emerged from the meeting nearly an hour later stony-faced and silent. Aides reported they were at an impasse and had no plans for further meetings. Speaker Boehner had earlier told fellow House Republicans in a conference call that he hoped to be able to issue what he called a framework for progress before the Asian markets open today. The sticking point appears to be the Republican leaders' insistence on a short-term deal to raise the debt ceiling. At the White House Friday evening, just after talks with Boehner had collapsed, President Obama made clear he wanted to raise the debt ceiling high enough not to have to do it again before voters go to the polls next year.
President BARACK OBAMA: And they can come up with any plans that they want, and bring them up here, and we will work on them. The only bottom line that I have is that we have to extend this debt ceiling through the next election, into 2013.
WELNA: Boehner aligned himself with the president's stance on that issue when asked about it at the news conference he held Friday evening.
BOEHNER: I'm not really interested in a short-term increase in the debt limit. I believe that there will be two challenges: that we have to increase the debt limit and we have to deal with our deficit and our debt.
WELNA: But Boehner also made clear he was not backing down on the two conditions he's insisted on for raising the debt ceiling.
BOEHNER: Spending cuts that must be greater than the increase in the debt limit, and no tax increases.
WELNA: In other words, all spending cuts and no new taxes to reduce deficits - an approach President Obama and Democratic leaders say they cannot agree to. Still, the president said Friday he trusts the debt ceiling will be raised by the deadline a week from Tuesday.
Pres. OBAMA: I am confident simply because I cannot believe that Congress would end up being that irresponsible that they would not send a package that avoids a self-inflicted wound to the economy at a time when things are so difficult.
WERTHEIMER: Boehner was similarly confident.
BOEHNER: No one wants to default on the full faith and credit of the United States government and I'm convinced that we will not.
WELNA: If that's to happen, a deal to raise the debt ceiling may have to be reached no later than tomorrow for Congress to enact it by the August 2nd deadline. David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.
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