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Debt Talks Return to Capitol Hill

Updated: 3:52 p.m.

After a brief White House meeting, the onus for finding a deal to cut spending and raise the debt ceiling returned to Congress Saturday afternoon.

Congressional leaders said in the wake of the White House meeting — which lasted less than an hour — they saw little hope of a “grand bargain” or even a short-term deal to raise the debt limit beyond the Aug. 2 deadline.

The leaders agreed to try and craft a new bill to extend the debt ceiling, with staff expected to meet throughout the weekend in hopes of getting a deal and legislative text posted by Monday night, aides said. That would set up a vote Wednesday in the House.

“As I said last night, over this weekend Congress will forge a responsible path forward,” Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) 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.”

On a conference call with Republicans, Boehner said he hopes to see signs of progress before Asian markets open late Sunday. Boehner is still seeking a large package of deficit reduction of $3 trillion or more and does not want to use a fallback plan offered weeks ago by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), GOP sources said.

President Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats reiterated their opposition to enacting a short-term debt limit extension, with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) saying, “absolutely, positively not” when asked about the possibility.

The White House released a statement warning against such a move.

“The president restated his opposition to a short-term extension of the debt ceiling, explaining that a short-term extension could cause our country’s credit rating to be downgraded, causing harm to our economy and causing every American to pay higher credit card rates and more for home and car loans,” said press secretary Jay Carney.

Carney said the leaders agreed to discuss a way forward with their Members, with conversations expected to continue throughout the day.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee began making calls in 60 Republican-held districts, many that Obama carried in 2008, accusing GOP Members of “playing games with the debt ceiling” in what it called the “We Don’t Quit” campaign.

Pelosi also declined to say whether she would have supported the grand bargain offer Obama and Boehner were negotiating, which included an increase in the Medicare eligibility age to 67.

“That’s not part of what we’re talking about,” she told reporters upon returning to the Capitol from the White House.

In a statement, McConnell said, “the president wanted to know that there was a plan for preventing national default.”

“The bipartisan leadership in Congress is committed to working on new legislation that will prevent default while substantially reducing Washington spending,” the Minority Leader said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Vice President Joseph Biden also joined the meeting with Obama on Saturday.

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