Debt Limit Talks: Boehner Wants 'Signs of Progress,' Says White House 'Won't Get Serious'

VIDEO: President Obama and Congressional leaders face increased pressure to reach
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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."

"Like the President and the entire bipartisan, bicameral Congressional leadership, we continue to believe that defaulting on the full faith and credit of the United States is not an option," he said.

A spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said that "given the unprecedented size of the debt ceiling increase the President is requesting," this is "not an easy process," but he said negotiations continue.

There were displays of anger Friday night from Obama and Boehner after the Republican announced he was pulling out of the debt talks with the White House and instead would take up negotiations with Democratic Congressional leaders.

The meeting at the White House today had a noticeably lighter tone, with Obama commenting that the weather was too hot to play golf.

Republican aides tell ABC News that Boehner wants to have a strong deal to present to Congress by Monday, and that the plan currently being worked on calls for $3 trillion to $4 trillion in cuts.

Boehner said on a Congressional Republican conference call this afternoon that he is trying to avoid using a Senate plan that was crafted by McConnell earlier in the negotiations that would allow the president to raise the debt ceiling without Congress having to vote directly for the measure.

McConnell has said he's now working on a "new" deficit reduction plan.

His original plan, which the president has said he would accept as a last option to avoid default, has received strong criticism from many Republicans on Capitol Hill who hate the idea of giving the president the power to raise the debt ceiling.

While it appears increasingly unlikely that Boehner will be able to forge a major deal before the Aug. 2 deadline, Democrats are also calling for a long-term agreement.

"I will not support any short-term agreement, and neither will President Obama nor Leader Pelosi," Reid said in a written statement today. "We seek an extension of the debt ceiling through at least the end of 2012. We will not send a message of uncertainty to the world."

The $3.1 trillion White House deal that Boehner walked away from Friday included cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, which Republicans wanted, but in the end, Boehner said Republicans could not agree to the revenue increases that the White House sought.

While the two sides were able to reach consensus on tax reforms adding up to $800 million, Boehner said last night the president moved the "goal posts" Thursday by asking for an additional $400 billion more in revenue increases.

"The president demanded $400 billion more, which was going to be nothing more than a tax increase on the American people," Boehner said.

But Obama said the additional revenue request wasn't why the talks failed.

"That wasn't the reason this thing broke down," Obama said. "When you look at the overall package, there's no changing of the goal posts here."

Pelosi said Republicans have held up the process because of their insistence that the Bush tax cuts on the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans not be ended.

"The delay in bringing forth a solution springs from the Republicans' decision to walk away from 98 percent of the American people to protect the assets of the top 2 percent of the wealthiest people in our country," she said.

"House Democrats have always been, and remain prepared to make the difficult choices necessary to reduce the deficit as we create jobs and protect Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries," she said. "But we will not make working families and the middle class sacrifice without also calling on everyone to contribute their fair share."