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Obama and rivals play golf amid budget debate
US president and Republican House Speaker Boehner team up on the golf course, hoping to ease negotiations over debt.
Last Modified: 19 Jun 2011 03:49



Barack Obama, the US president, and Republican John Boehner, the speaker of the House of Representatives, have teamed up in a golf match to try to build a friendlier climate for troubled talks on the US debt and deficits.

In a game won on the 18th hole, Obama, a Democrat, and Boehner beat Joe Biden, the vice-president, and Ohio Republican Governor John Kasich on a course at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, just outside Washington.

The four hit the links on Saturday as Democrats and Republicans were at odds over ways to cut the US budget by trillions and to raise the $14.3tn ceiling on the nation's debt.

Since May, Biden has been leading talks with a group of legislators. Without a deal to allow the nation to issue more debt, the treasury department has warned that the government will begin defaulting on obligations on August 2.
 
Kasich, a former congressman, is an expert on federal financial matters and a friend of Boehner.

Many experts believe any debt deal will require Obama and Boehner to step in. Their personal relationship could make a difference in the dynamics of the negotiations.

Breakthrough unlikely

Before the golf game, aides to both Obama and Boehner played down the prospects of a breakthrough in the debt talks and said tough decisions on the budget would be left to legislators.

But they left open the possibility that policy issues such as the debt would come up in the conversation.

US presidents have played golf with friends and foes for years. Lyndon Johnson rounded up votes for the 1965 Civil Rights Act on the golf course, while President Bill Clinton often used the game to negotiate with allies and opponents.

Julian Zelizer, a professor at Princeton University, said both Boehner and Obama needed to appear to be trying to reach a solution on the debt ceiling but that Saturday's game would probably yield only limited progress in improving Washington's politically fractious climate.

"Both parties are really stuck in," he said. "It's hard to overcome all the forces that make partisanship so strong on Capitol Hill. It's hard for a golf outing to overcome that."

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