US politicians cite progress in debt talks

White House and Republican leaders say they are closing in on last-minute deal to avert default on country's debt.

    US congressional leaders have made strides toward reaching a compromise during talks on breaking a debt limit deadlock and averting a potentially catastrophic government default, officials familiar with the talks said.

    The officials, who spoke to news agencies on the condition of anonymity, said under the plan being discussed, the country's debt ceiling would be increased up to $2.8 trillion, with nearly equal cuts in spending.

    They said $1 trillion of the spending cuts would take effect immediately.

    However, details of the discussions have not yet been finalised.

    The signs of apparent progress followed talks between top congressional Republicans and President Barack Obama at the White House.

    Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he had spoken with Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden and declared himself "confident and optimistic that we're going to get an agreement in the very near future".

    "Senator McConnell and I are both confident that we're going to be able to come to some agreement with the White House and end this impasse," Republican House Speaker John Boehner said as they held a joint press conference.

    Al Jazeera's Rob Reynolds, reporting from Capitol Hill, said: "The language being used is a tentative framework, [which] indicates that a great number of details have yet to be hammered out.

    "This is all taking place pretty much behind closed door in meetings principally between the Republican leader of the Senate, Mitch Mcconnell, and other Senate and House leaders and the White House directly."

    In video

    Roger Wilkison reports on the effect of debt talks on education

    Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, after casting doubt earlier in the day, seemed more optimistic when he came to the senate floor to ask for the vote to be postponed to 1pm local time on Sunday.

    He wanted to give the negotiations time to continue, he said.

    "There are negotiations going on at the White House to avert a catastrophic default on the nation's debt. There are many elements to be finalised and there is still a distance to go," Reid said in a brief statement.

    "I spoke to the White House quite a few times this evening, and they've asked me to give everyone as much time as possible to reach an agreement if one can be reached.

    "There can be no short term agreement - and I am optimistic that there would be no short term arrangement whatsoever," he stressed.

    Angry debate

    Al Jazeera's Anand Naidoo, reporting from Capitol Hill, said the Democrats have relentlessly opposed the Republicans' call to increase the debt for six months and have another vote later this year.

    "President Obama himself has made it very clear that he does not want a short term solution on this. He wants to see the debt ceiling lifted all the way to 2013," he said.

    "The Republicans, for their part, are saying this is a political move. The president wants it this way so he can campaign on this when he comes up for reelection in 2012."

    The upbeat words on Saturday came after the Republican-led House of Representatives voted to kill Reid's proposal for raising the $14.3 trillion US debt limit, a day after the Democratic-held Senate did the same to Boehner's plan.

    The House move, which amounted to a preemptive strike on a bill that had yet to get a Senate vote, came after an often angry and partisan debate marked by boos, cheers, and unusually personal broadsides.

    When Republican Representative David Dreier said defeating the measure would help leaders of both parties negotiate a path forward, Democratic Representative Sandy Levin denounced the claim as "pernicious nonsense."

    Republican Representative and presidential candidate Michele Bachmann accused Obama of snubbing the negotiations, while overseeing "insane, never-before-seen-in-the-history-of-this-country levels of spending."

    With three days before a midnight Tuesday deadline, Obama summoned Reid and Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to 11th-hour talks aimed at forging a compromise.

    "There are plenty of ways out of this mess. But there is very little time," Obama warned in his weekly radio address on Saturday.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


    How different voting systems work around the world

    How different voting systems work around the world

    Nearly two billion voters in 52 countries around the world will head to the polls this year to elect their leaders.

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    Russian-Saudi relations could be very different today, if Stalin hadn't killed the Soviet ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

    The great plunder: Nepal's stolen treasures

    The great plunder: Nepal's stolen treasures

    How the art world's hunger for ancient artefacts is destroying a centuries-old culture. A journey across the Himalayas.