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Congressional Debt Meeting Also Runs Short

The top four Congressional leaders gathered briefly Saturday evening to try to negotiate a last-minute agreement to raise the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt limit that could clear Congress sometime next week.

But about an hour later the meeting was over, and there was no clear sign of a deal.

The hastily-convened meeting in Speaker John Boehner’s offices included Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

The quartet is trying to hammer out a final debt deal before Aug. 2, when the Treasury Department says the nation may not be able to pay all its bills without an increase in borrowing authority. Lawmakers and their staffs are expected to work through the weekend to try to resolve the impasse over raising the debt limit and assembling an accompanying deficit reduction plan.

An earlier gathering of leaders at the White House lasted less than an hour and did not produce significant progress.

One of the sticking points appears to be whether Congress should pass a short-term debt ceiling increase.

On Saturday evening, Reid reaffirmed that he would “not support any short-term agreement, and neither will President [Barack] Obama nor Leader Pelosi. We seek an extension of the debt ceiling through at least the end of 2012.”

House Republicans have discussed a short-term deal in the range of $1 trillion, with accompanying spending cuts. Democrats have consistently said they would oppose such a measure, although Obama said he would consider signing a very brief stopgap only if a long-term deal was near being finalized.

“We will not send a message of uncertainty to the world,” Reid added.

Before the White House meeting, Boehner warned the president not to dismiss the option of a short-term increase in the debt ceiling.

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