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President Obama, John Boehner clash over debt crisis

July 25, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner clashed Monday night in back-to-back appearance on national television over the cause and cure for the nation's debt crisis. The two men spoke as Congress remained gridlocked on legislation to prevent a threatened default after Aug. 2.

Obama assailed a new Republican plan to raise the nation's debt limit as an invitation to another crisis in six months. He said congressional leaders must reach an agreement that can reach his desk before the deadline.

"The American people may have voted for divided government, but they didn't vote for a dysfunctional government," the president said in his in the East Room of the White House a few hours after Republican lawmakers, then his own Democrats, drafted rival emergency legislation to head off a potentially devastating default.

Responding moments later from a room near the House chamber, Boehner said the "crisis atmosphere" was of the president's making.

"The sad truth is that the president wanted a blank check six months ago, and he wants a blank check today. That is just not going to happen," Boehner said. "The president has often said we need a 'balanced' approach, which in Washington means we spend more, you pay more."

The speeches by Obama and Boehner did little to suggest that a compromise was imminent, and the next steps appeared to be votes in the House and Senate on the rival plans by mid-week.

Despite warnings to the contrary, U.S. financial markets have appeared to take the political maneuvering in stride - so far. Wall Street posted losses Monday but with no indication of panic among investors.

According to a GOP aide familiar with the emerging House bill, it would provide for an immediate $1 trillion increase in the government's $14.3 trillion debt limit in exchange for $1.2 trillion in cuts in federal spending.

The measure also envisions Congress approving a second round of spending cuts of $1.8 trillion or more in 2012, passage of which would trigger an additional $1.6 trillion in increased borrowing authority.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said a debt limit standoff between Democrats and the Republican-led House is being driven by GOP extremists.

At a news conference, the Nevada Democrat said Republicans are more interested in trying to embarrass Obama than in doing what's right for the country. He says the GOP is being led by the "radical right wing," and says such extremists should not be allowed to determine how the battle is resolved.

Reid has proposed extending the government's tapped-out borrowing authority until 2013. Republicans want to raise that ceiling for only a few months and force another vote on the volatile issue during the 2012 political campaigns. Both parties would also cut spending.

Reid acknowledges that he's open to compromise if Republicans propose something.

Earlier on Monday, Boehner said Reid's plan to deal with the debt and avert a government default is "full of gimmicks." Speaking to reporters Monday, Boehner praised the House GOP plan.

Boehner said the Reid plan does not make any real changes in the spending structure of the government and fails to deal with Medicare and Medicaid.

Speaking to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong early Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tried to reassure financial markets that America's economy is sound and that a deal on the debt limit would be reached.

Both Boehner and Reid were hoping that by presenting their competing plans, they would demonstrate a seriousness that could prevent the world's financial markets from panicking and punishing the U.S. by demanding higher interest rates for the huge amounts of cash it must constantly borrow.

The Associated Press contributed to this story

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