Obama, Boehner trade blame on debt-talks collapse
(AP) - House Speaker John Boehner abruptly broke offtalks with President Barack Obama Friday night on a deal to makemajor cuts in federal spending and avert a threatened governmentdefault, sending already uncertain compromise efforts into instantcrisis. Within minutes, an obviously peeved Obama virtually orderedcongressional leaders to the White House Saturday morning for freshnegotiations on raising the nation's debt limit. "We've got to getit done. It is not an option not to do it," he declared. For the first time since talks began, he declined to offerassurances, when asked, that default would be avoided. Momentslater, however, he said he was confident of that outcome. At a rebuttal news conference of his own a short while later inthe Capitol, Boehner said, "I want to be entirely clear, no onewants default on the full faith and credit of the United Statesgovernment, and I'm convinced that we will not." The two men offered sharply different accounts of the compromiseefforts so far and who was at fault for the collapse. "I've been left at the altar now a couple of times," Obamasaid wryly. "It's the president who walked away from his agreement,"Boehner contended. The speaker said Obama wanted higher taxes and not enoughspending cuts. The president countered that he had offered an "extraordinarilyfair deal" that totaled $2.6 trillion in spending cuts and $1.2trillion in additional revenue. Strikingly, the two sides had agreed on two highly controversialchanges, according to aides on both sides of the talks. One wouldraise the age of eligibility of Medicare gradually from 65 to 67for future beneficiaries, while the other would slow the increasein cost-of-living raises in Social Security checks. Given that accord, it seemed likely those agreements would beamong many carrying over to the broader meeting Saturday morningand beyond. Barring action by Congress by an Aug. 2 deadline, the Treasurywill be unable to pay all its bills. Officials say a default coulddestabilize the already weakened U.S. economy and send major rippleeffects across the globe.