But failing to meet those deadlines would have far less serious consequences than defaulting on U.S. obligations like payments to bondholders.

"We should not be doing this three months at a time. We should resolve these issues, and we should not be playing games with the debt ceiling," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D., Md.).

Republicans hope the need to deal with issues like the across-the-board cuts will cause Democrats and Obama to agree to spending cuts. Obama vowed he would not bargain over the debt limit. If the debt cap is not raised, the government would default on its obligations by as early as Feb. 15, Treasury says.
Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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