Obama and Boehner look to get US debt on the fairway

Thomas Ferraro,Tim Reid
Thursday 16 June 2011 00:00 BST

Barack Obama and the Republican House Speaker, John Boehner, will hit the golf course on Saturday with many hoping that over 18 holes they can knock Washington's troubled debt limit talks out of the rough.

Mr Obama and Mr Boehner will play golf together for the first time and discuss how to reach a deal to raise the country's $14.3 trillion (£8.8trn) debt limit by 2 August to avoid the first default in US history.

American presidents have been playing golf with friends and foes for years. They often find it a good way to talk candidly and – between putts and drives, shanks and hooks – unearth some common ground, apart from divots. "It is an important time to relax and talk – as long as you aren't hitting it into the rough all day – and do deals," said James Thurber, of American University's Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies.

Democratic and Republican aides say any debt limit deal will ultimately have to be forged by Mr Obama and Mr Boehner, and the golf game is the first major step by them to open lines of communication in negotiations in which the two sides are sharply divided over how to reduce the country's huge deficits.

"It is an opportunity for me and John to talk about some issues that are of importance to the American people," Mr Obama has said.

Under the bonhomie that will be on show during the game, the stakes could not be higher. The Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, has warned that failure to raise the borrowing cap by 2 August will trigger turmoil in the bond markets and economic "catastrophe". Mr Boehner has demanded "trillions" of dollars in spending cuts as the price of a deal to raise the cap.

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