Obama Calls For At Least A 'Down Payment' On Deficit

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, Host:

President Obama and Republicans in the House have clashed in negotiations all this week over how or whether to raise the federal borrowing limit, known as the debt ceiling. And the clock is ticking, with default on the nation's debt looming. The president is holding a news conference at the White House right now, his second this week, to discuss the spending cuts and revenue increases he thinks are needed to fix the problem.

BARACK OBAMA: I am still pushing for us to achieve a big deal, but what I also said to the group is, if we can't do the biggest deal possible, then let's still be ambitious, let's still try to at least get a down payment on deficit reduction.

LOUISE KELLY: We're joined in the studio now by NPR's Brain Naylor. Good morning, Brian.

BRIAN NAYLOR: Good morning, Mary Louise.

LOUISE KELLY: So we just heard President Obama say he would still like to see a big deal. Did he have any progress to report this morning?

NAYLOR: Well, I wouldn't exactly call it progress. He didn't announce any impending agreement. He said that he was encouraged that Congressional leaders have reiterated their desire not to have the U.S. go into default. So I guess that's some progress.

LOUISE KELLY: Progress of a sort, sure.

NAYLOR: Of a sort. But after a week-long series of meetings, and meetings before that even, at the White House and among the Congressional leaders, there still doesn't seem to be any sense that anyone is coalescing around a particular position or a particular option. Things are still kind of still - there's still no agreement in sight.

LOUISE KELLY: He said he's holding out hope though. And then he got a laugh. He said, Don't you remember my campaign?

NAYLOR: Right. All about hope. And that's about it right now, I think.

LOUISE KELLY: Now, meanwhile, across town House Speaker Republican John Boehner met this morning with his party's rank and file. He then came out and held a press conference of his own, and here's a little taste of what he had to say.

JOHN BOEHNER: We asked the president to lead. We asked him to put forward a plan. Not a speech. A real plan. And he hasn't. We will.

NAYLOR: Basically, the two sides seem to be, you know, more or less hardening their positions, despite all of the talk that's been going on.

LOUISE KELLY: And just quickly, remind us how serious is this August 2nd deadline that they're all talking about.

NAYLOR: We don't actually know because we've never been through something like this before.

LOUISE KELLY: Alright. Thanks so much, Brian.

NAYLOR: Thanks, Mary Louise.

LOUISE KELLY: That's NPR's Brian Naylor talking about the negotiations still very much underway to try to find a debt deal. And you're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.