President Obama wants Congress to come to an agreement by Aug. 2 about raising the $14.3 trillion national debt ceiling so that the US does not default on its debt and other obligations. The president wanted new tax revenues to be part of a 'grand bargain' to shrink the budget deficit; House Republicans did not. Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP
Vice President Joe Biden was assigned by President Obama to lead deficit-reduction talks, which hit an impasse after Republicans refused to accept the Democrats' call for a closing of tax breaks on the wealthy and certain business sectors. Jacquelyn Martin/AP
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has been vocal about his surprise that lawmakers would be at a stalemate for so long about raising the debt ceiling. Mr. Geithner told CNN's 'State of the Union' on July 24 that a US default was unthinkable, saying, 'We never do that. It's not going to happen.'
House Speaker John Boehner (R) of Ohio has been meeting with Republicans and has talked with President Obama about a possible 'grand bargain' with a tax code reform and changes to entitlement programs. He has since said that Republicans would not accept such a bargain, and advanced a $2 trillion package to cut spending over 10 years. J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D) has said, 'A plan to decimate Social Security, Medicare, and every other federal benefit plan, while protecting hundreds of billions of dollars in special-interest tax breaks, is not a serious plan.' He has been working with Senate Republican leaders on a 'fallback plan' that, at a minimum, would allow the debt ceiling to be raised. J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R) has been working with Sen. Harry Reid on a plan that would allow President Obama to raise the debt ceiling, but with many conditions. Conservatives in the House disagree with the plan, seeking more cuts in spending. Harry Hamburg/AP
Sen. Tom Coburn (R) of Oklahoma is one of the 'Gang of Six,' a bipartisan group of senators that has proposed a plan that combines $3.7 trillion in deficit cuts over 10 years with tax code reform and an immediate $500 billion slash in spending. J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Sen. Mark Warner (D) of Virginia, one of the Gang of Six, has become frustrated with the political gridlock, saying, 'If we don't get this fixed, all of us – all of us – ought to get fired,' and 'I’m going to vote for virtually anything that extends the debt ceiling.' Alex Brandon/AP
Sen. Mike Crapo (R) of Idaho, one of the Gang of Six, co-sponsored the 'Cut, Cap and Balance' bill in the Senate that was voted down by the Senate on July 22. He has said that, in addition to addressing the debt and deficit, there is a need to 'fundamentally reform a burdensome, uncompetitive tax code.' Harry Hamburg/AP
Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R) of Georgia, one of the 'Gang of Six,' has been taking political flak due to his support of the Gang's plan. People don't realize how serious the deficit situation is, he has said. The 'Gang of Six' plan, he notes, would 'reduce the debt by a total of about $3.7 trillion over 10 years.' Alex Brandon/AP
Sen. Kent Conrad (D) of North Dakota, one of the 'Gang of Six,' is chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. He has been critical of federal spending, telling Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner in a committee hearing earlier this year, 'We are borrowing 40 cents of every dollar we spend....That is unsustainable.' Harry Hamburg/AP
Sen. Dick Durbin (D) of Illinois (at podium), one of the 'Gang of Six,' has supported extending the debt ceiling. He is opposed to having Congress pass the shorter-term debt ceiling increase endorsed by Speaker John Boehner, insisting that the $2.4 trillion boost President Barack Obama has requested is necessary to save the US economy.
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R) of Wisconsin (l.) crafted the 'Cut, Cap, and Balance' House bill that would cut $111 billion in spending in 2012, cap federal spending over 10 years, and require a balanced-budget amendment to the US Constitution. He has been a vocal critic of the president and the 'Gang of Six' bipartisan plan. William B. Plowman/AP Images for DCI Group
Rep. Jim Jordan (R) of Ohio (c.), the Republican Study Committee chairman, urged the House to back the Republican Study Committee's 'Cut, Cap, and Balance' plan: 'We cannot continue down this same reckless path of borrowing and spending like there is no tomorrow.' J. Scott Applewhite/AP
House majority leader Eric Cantor (R.) of Virginia (l.) was inserted into Vice President Biden's now-defunct deficit talks by Speaker John Boehner. Cantor has since championed the 'Cut, Cap and Balance' plan in a House bill, which was killed in the Senate on July 22. J. Scott Applewhite/AP