Obama: Still Differences on Debt, New Talks Sunday

By Jim Kuhnhenn, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — With an August deadline for a budget deal to raise the nation's debt ceiling looming, President Barack Obama and congressional negotiators are looking at closing some tax loopholes and cutting popular social benefit programs as they work to reach an agreement between Republicans and Democrats.

With the two sides still far apart, Obama has called everyone back to the White House for a rare Sunday meeting.

The president met with the eight top Republican and Democratic congressional leaders for an hour and a half Thursday, hoping to bridge ideas held by the two sides — each considered untenable by the other. On Capitol Hill, Democrats appeared especially rattled that the discussions included proposals to cut spending for Social Security as well as Medicare and Medicaid.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi opposes cutting the benefit programs and will have an opportunity to raise her concerns when she meets Friday with the president.

"We are not going to balance the budget on the backs of America's seniors," Pelosi said.

After dragging on for weeks, the top-level talks have entered a suspenseful endgame. The shape of an agreement remains in doubt as the nation moves closer to an Aug. 2 deadline to raise the government's debt ceiling.

Obama pushed for an ambitious deficit reduction plan of roughly $4 trillion, the biggest of three options he laid on the table. It would require sizeable tax revenues, which many Republicans oppose, and spending reductions for entitlement programs, opposed by many Democrats. But the idea of a potentially historic deal was well received by the meeting participants, officials said later, even though the details remained in dispute.