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President Obama said Friday night that House Speaker John Boehner was "walking away" from negotiations to raise the nation's debt ceiling and avert financial catastrophe. Still, Obama said he was expecting congressional leaders from both parties at the White House Saturday morning.
In a dramatic appearance in the White House briefing room Obama said it was up to congressional leaders to explain to him how they intend to avoid the default that is threatened after Aug. 2.
"I expect them to have an answer in terms of how they intend to get this thing done in the course of the next week. The American people expect action," Obama said.
Boehner, in a letter circulated to the House Republican rank and file, said he had withdrawn from the talks with Obama because "in the end, we couldn't connect.He said he would turn instead to negotiations with leaders of the Senate, which is controlled by majority Democrats.
The disconnect in the talks with the White House, Boehner said, was "not because of different personalities, but because of different visions for our country."
The talks had veered uncertainly for weeks, generating reports as late as Thursday that the two sides were possibly closing in on an agreement to cut $3 trillion in spending and add as much as $1 trillion in possible revenue while increasing the government's borrowing authority of $2.4 trillion.
That triggered a revolt among Democrats who expressed fears the president was giving away too much in terms of cuts to Medicare and Social Security while getting too little by way of additional revenues
Obama for the first time declined to offer assurances, when asked, that default would be avoided. He said he was consulting with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner about what the consequences would be for Social Security recipients and others `'if we default."
Later, he said he was confident the debt limit would be raised and default would be avoided.
Officials say a default could destabilize the already weakened U.S. economy and send major ripple effects across the globe.
Leaders in a divided government, Obama and Boehner blamed each other's partisans for torpedoing a deal.
"In the end, we couldn't connect," Boehner wrote Republican rank-and-file lawmakers, accusing the president of wanting to raise taxes and being reluctant to cut benefit programs.
But Obama, in a rare Friday evening turn at the White House podium, said, "I've been left at the altar now a couple of times."
"If Congress and the House Republicans are not willing to ensure that we avoid default, it's fair to say they take responsibility for whatever arises," the president said.
This program aired on July 22, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.
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