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WH Debt Talks Last Just 50 Minutes, Obama Tells Congress to Refrain from 'Reckless Political Games


GOP "committed to working on new legislation."

President Barack Obama sits next to House Speaker John Boehner in the Cabinet Room of the White House during debt talks Saturday. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama met for less than an hour Saturday with congressional leaders in debt crisis talks, and a leading Republican said afterward that top lawmakers were "committed to working on new legislation" to cut federal spending and avert an unprecedented U.S. default.

There were no immediate signs of a breakthrough, however. The lawmakers and Obama were unsmiling as the meeting began, and most of them avoided reporters when they left the White House.

In a statement released afterward, the White House said, "Congress should refrain from playing reckless political games with our economy. Instead, it should be responsible and do its job, avoiding default and cutting the deficit." The statement renewed Obama's insistence that any agreement tide the government over until after the 2012 elections, to avoid a rerun of the debt dispute in the heat of the campaign.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell issued a somewhat more upbeat statement of his own.

"The president wanted to know that there was a plan for preventing national default," he said. "The bipartisan leadership in Congress is committed to working on new legislation that will prevent default while substantially reducing Washington spending."

House Speaker John Boehner also pledged to work for a bipartisan solution.

"As I said last night, over this weekend Congress will forge a responsible path forward," he said in a statement. "House and Senate leaders will be working to find a bipartisan solution to significantly reduce Washington spending and preserve the full faith and credit of the United States."

The meeting followed a collapse in negotiations late Friday, when Boehner announced he was breaking off talks with the president. A visibly irritated Obama summoned Boehner and three other top congressional leaders from both parties to convene Saturday and try again to find a way to raise the debt limit before an Aug. 2 deadline cuts off the government's borrowing authority.

The president was flanked at the bargaining table by Boehner and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. Also at the table were Vice President Joe Biden, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and McConnell, R-Ky.

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