Obama to meet U.S. senate leaders on debt talks

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, June 27, 2011 8:09 EDT
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WASHINGTON (AFP) – President Barack Obama is scheduled to meet leaders of the US Senate Monday in an attempt to break the impasse over raising the country’s debt limit, with a deadline fast approaching.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has warned lawmakers they have until August 2 to raise the debt limit or risk having the United States default on its loans.

Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are set to meet the Senate majority leader, Democrat Harry Reid, in the Oval Office at 10:30 am (1430 GMT), according to the White House schedule.

At 5 pm (2100 GMT) Obama and Biden — who has been heading the administration’s talks on the budget — will meet Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, also in the Oval Office. Both events are closed to the press.

The White House meetings come after Republicans walked out of crucial talks on the issue Thursday, and warnings by top Republican leaders that they will not accept the president’s demands to close tax loopholes and hike rates on the wealthiest Americans.

“Throwing more tax revenue into the mix is simply not going to produce a desirable result, and it won’t pass,” McConnell told ABC television’s “This Week” on Sunday.

“Putting aside the fact that Republicans don’t like to raise taxes, Democrats don’t like to either,” said McConnell, who has accused the president of a dereliction of leadership on the issue.

Congressman James Clyburn, the assistant Democratic leader in the House of Representatives, said McConnell and other Republicans were setting the budget debate on the wrong path.

“We do not want to raise anybody’s tax rates. That’s never been on the table,” he told “This Week.”

“And I wish they (Republicans) would get beyond their talking points and really get honest with the American people as to what these discussions are about.”

Clyburn pressed for closing tax loopholes for oil companies and others, but stressed that doing so was not the same as raising taxes.

“We ought not have these oil subsidies. We ought not have all these ethanol subsidies. We ought not have all these new breaks for millionaires and billionaires. We ought to be honest with the American people and have an effective tax rate that will be fair to everybody,” he said.

Democrats have said they want to raise revenue to trim the ballooning US deficit by closing loopholes and reducing tax breaks for oil firms and high-income individuals.

The White House says Republicans want to use the showdown to secure tax loopholes for corporations, tax breaks for the rich and subsidies for oil and gas firms.

According to McConnell, his rival Democrats are willing to reduce Medicare health coverage spending for the elderly and such plans could pass Congress if brought to a vote.

“We need to cut spending now. We need to cap spending in the future. And we need to save our entitlement programs, which are on a path to bankruptcy, according to the president’s own trustees of Medicare and Social Security,” he said.

The US government hit its legal borrowing limit on May 16 and the talks are designed to secure congressional approval to raise the ceiling.

The Treasury, which has performed a number of intricate financial measures, says it will run out of maneuvering room on August 2.

Obama and Republicans have agreed on a figure of roughly $4 trillion in budget cuts that they say is vital to reining in the deficit in the long-term and putting the economy on a sustainable path to fiscal prudence, but sharply disagree on how to make those savings.

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
AFP journalists cover wars, conflicts, politics, science, health, the environment, technology, fashion, entertainment, the offbeat, sports and a whole lot more in text, photographs, video, graphics and online.
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