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Obama on debt talks: 'I have bent over backwards'


As bipartisan deficit talks dragged on for another day, President Obama called on both parties to work together to reach the largest deal possible and praised the speaker of the House for what he called "good-faith efforts" on that front in the face of "difficult" politics in the Republican caucus.

The president's remarks came ahead of a 2:00 pm ET meeting, the second in two days, that he and Vice President Biden were to have with congressional leadership in the Cabinet Room to discuss a way forward. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) were expected at the meeting.

"I continue to push congressional leaders for the largest possible deal, and there's going to be resistance," Obama said during a 40-minute press conference in the White House's Brady Press Briefing room. "But if each side takes a maximalist position, if each side wants 100 percent of what its ideological predispositions are, then we can't get anything done, and I think the American people want to see something done."

Obama said he would meet with congressional leaders "every single day until we get this thing resolved" and said he would not consider a temporary "stop gap" resolution to the problem. Lawmakers have struggled for weeks to reach a deal to raise the limit for how much the government can borrow to pay its debts. The debt limit must be raised by August 2nd to avoid a default on the government's obligations, which economists and White House officials say would have a disastrous effect on the US economy. Republicans have repeatedly insisted that tax increases be off the table, while Democrats don't want to see cuts to entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare.

The president said nobody was suggesting taxes be raised immediately, in the midst of a sluggish recovery that saw the jobless rate tick up to the 9.2 percent in June, and that the discussion was about ending loopholes and low rates for corporate jet owners, oil companies and the rich beginning in 2013.

"I have bent over backwards to work with the Republicans to try to come up with a formulation that doesn't require them to vote some time in the next month to increase taxes," he told reporters.

Saying he did not see a path to a deal if Republicans don't budge, the president stressed that Democrats would have to compromise as well.

"The leaders in the room here at a certain point have to step up and do the right thing regardless of the voices in our respective parties that are trying to undermine that effort," he said. "In fairness a big deal would require a lot of work on the part of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi and myself to bring Democrats along, but the point is is if everybody gets in the boat at the same time, it doesn't tip over."

The White House and congressional leaders at one point appeared headed toward a deal that would reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over the next 10 years, but Boehner told the president over the weekend that his party could not support the large deal and would prefer a smaller deal, some $2 trillion to $2.5 trillion in cuts, like the one that was being negotiated in the Biden-led talks, which also failed to reach a deal.

Still, the president made a point of complimenting the speaker, saying his experience with Boehner had been good and that he was a good man who wanted to do right by the country.

"I think Speaker Boehner has been very sincere about trying to do something big; I think he'd like to do something big. His politics within his caucus are very difficult," Obama said at one point, later adding, "The politics that swept him into the speakership were good for a midterm election, they're tough for governing."

Many new House Republicans ran on promises to push for big reductions in government spending and are holding the line against any move that would resemble a tax increase.