WASHINGTON (AP) - House Speaker John Boehner abruptly broke off talks with President Barack Obama Friday night on a deal to make major cuts in federal spending and avert a threatened government default, sending already uncertain compromise efforts into instant crisis.
Within minutes, an obviously peeved Obama virtually ordered congressional leaders to the White House this morning for fresh negotiations on raising the nation's debt limit. "We've got to get it done. It is not an option not to do it," he declared.
For the first time since talks began, he declined to offer assurances, when asked, that default would be avoided. Moments later, however, he said he was confident of that outcome.
At a rebuttal news conference of his own a short while later in the Capitol, Boehner said, "I want to be entirely clear, no one wants default on the full faith and credit of the United States government, and I'm convinced that we will not."
Barring action by Congress by an Aug 2 deadline, the Treasury will be unable to pay all its bills. Officials say a default could destabilize the already weakened U.S. economy and send major ripple effects across the globe.
Even by the recent standards of divided government, Boehner's decision triggered an extraordinary evening as first the Democratic president and then the Republican speaker maneuvered for political position on an issue of enormous national import.
Unspoken, yet unmistakable in all the brinkmanship was the 2012 election campaign, still 18 months away, with the White House and both houses of Congress at stake.