24 Jul 2011

US President calls emergency meeting on debt

4:34 am on 24 July 2011

US President Barack Obama has called an emergency meeting of congressional leaders at the White House on Saturday after the collapse of talks to lift the ceiling on debt.

The meeting follows a decision by the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Republican John Boehner to walked away from the debt talks at the White House.

The BBC reports that President Obama sounded angry and impatient as he called the Democrat and Republican congressional leaders - including Mr Boehner back to the White House for the 11am meeting on Saturday.

Each side has blamed the other for the collapse of the negotiations.

In a letter to congressional colleagues, Mr Boehner said he and the president could not reach agreement on a deficit reduction package and that the two ''had different visions'' for the country.

''In the end, we couldn't connect,'' Mr Boehner said.

''I have decided to end discussions with the White House and begin conversations with the leaders of the Senate in an effort to find a path forward,'' the letter said.

For his part, Mr Obama said Mr Boehner had rejected an "extraordinarily fair deal" that would have included $US650 billion of cuts to entitlement programmes.

The president said he had been willing to take "a lot of heat" from his party in order to get agreement and that both sides were only about $US10 billion apart on spending cuts.

The federal government's authority to borrow money is limited by statute and Congress has to raise the limit by 2 August.

The US national debt is currently about $US14.3 trillion. The BBC reports the annual government budget deficit reached $US1.5 trillion earlier this year.

In a meeting with voters in Maryland on Friday, President Obama warned that every American would feel the economic pain if Congress failed to reach an agreement to raise the US debt limit.

''If we don't solve it, every American will suffer,'' he said.