Congressional leaders met twice today, frantic to make progress on a debt limit deal before Asian markets open, but both sides came away pointing fingers about who is to blame for the continuing deadlock.
The only thing both sides seemed ready to agree on this evening was that allowing the U.S. government to default was not an option.
The Congressional leaders met this evening after attending a meeting at the White House this morning, where President Obama demanded an afternoon update of the negotiations on Capitol Hill.
Republican Speaker John Boehner told the House Republican conference in an afternoon conference call update that he "wants to be able to show signs of progress" by Sunday afternoon, about the time Asian markets are opening half a world away.
The idea is to reassure the world the United States will not drift into default Aug. 2 because of political stalemate in Washington.
But that's exactly what some in Washington see coming down the track.
Boehner's deal, still unannounced, apparently would send Obama the only thing he is flatly promising to veto: a two-stage debt ceiling extension that would raise the ceiling enough to avoid default this summer, but forcw a second vote during the tumult of the 2012 campaign.
White House press secretary Jay Carney didn't mince words in a midafternoon email about the progress of the negotiations.
"Congress should refrain from playing reckless political games with our economy," Carney said. "Instead, it should be responsible and do its job, avoiding default and cutting the deficit."
Republicans continue to insist that every dollar of new debt must be matched or exceeded by spending cuts. The coming Boehner plan is expected to be $1 trillion to $2 trillion, not the full $2.4 trillion Obama is seeking through 2013.
A Democratic aide told ABC News that the Democrats at the talks said they would be open to two stages of cuts but not to a short term debt limit extension that would force Congress to go through the process again in less than a year.
"Republicans only want the debt ceiling extended as far as the cuts in each tranch," the aide said. "That means we'll be right back where we are today a few months down the road. We are not a banana republic. You don't run America like that."
The Democrats' proposal tonight was to do two tranches of cuts, but raise the debt ceiling through 2012 before the Aug. 2 deadline, the aide said.
"Republicans rejected that, and continued to push a short-term [deal] despite the fact that [Sen. Harry] Reid, [Rep. Nancy] Pelosi and Obama all could not have been clearer that they will not support a short-term increase," the aide said. "A short term risks some of the same consequences as outright failure to raise the ceiling -- downgraded credit rating, stocks plunge, interest rates spike, etc."
Boehner, who was also involved in the talks, faulted Obama for not detailing what their proposal was for dealing with the debt limit and the related problems of the federal deficit.
"Listen, it's time to get serious, and I'm confident that the bipartisan leaders here in the Congress can act," Boehner said. "The White House won't get serious; we will."
The Ohio Republican's spokesman, Michael Steel, said Republicans have been forthcoming with a plan, and that now "a two-step process is inevitable."