By Bob Cusack - 07/25/11 10:00 AM EDT
Fatigue has become yet another obstacle in the seemingly endless talks aimed at raising the nation's debt ceiling.
During a background briefing at the White House on Friday evening, a senior administration official said, "We're all tired."
"The stakes are very high," the White House official said.
Congressional officials acknowledge that the 24/7 negotiations, coupled with the global repercussions of the U.S. possibly going into default, has them on edge.
Republican and Democratic leaders are trying to toe a difficult line, aiming to gain leverage in the talks while also reassuring Wall Street and beyond that they will, somehow, soon strike an agreement.
The Obama administration has set an Aug. 2 deadline of raising the debt ceiling, with Congress scheduled to adjourn for the rest of the month days later.
Traditionally, the days before the August recess on Capitol Hill are tense. Lawmakers, aides, lobbyists and journalists are prone to get cranky amid scorching heat and a rush to pass bills on the crammed legislative agenda.
This year, the pace has been more harried as scheduled recesses have been canceled and members are regularly on call each weekend.
Moreover, the planned August recess — a respite cherished by lawmakers and their spouses — is now in jeopardy. Congressional aides say there is little chance of adjournment unless a bipartisan deal has been signed into law by President Obama.
During an impromptu Friday night press conference that caught many news organizations by surprise, Obama — who has long prided himself on being cool under pressure — repeatedly expressed exasperation with Republicans.
"I've been left at the alter a couple times," Obama said, complaining that Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was not negotiating in good faith.
Boehner quickly fired back. Soon thereafter, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Boehner's office were engaged in a war of words.
Meanwhile, on Sunday night, the chances of a bipartisan accord seemed to dim as party leaders blamed one another and House Republicans called on each other to unify against Obama and Democratic leaders to maximize their leverage.