The political and financial crisis gripping the US appeared to have only deepened after President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner attacked each other over the failure to avert a catastrophic financial default next week.
Positions seemed to harden after they engaged in an extraordinary joust over fiscal issues that have consumed Washington since a large block of first-term members of the US House of Representatives, elected last year under the mantle of the small-government, low-tax tea party, returned the lower chamber to Republican control.
Mr Obama said the long and caustic fight was a "partisan three-ring circus." Mr Boehner, borrowing the president's very words, said Mr Obama "would not take yes for an answer,"
Their words swept through the national television audience just hours after Mr Boehner and Harry Reid, leader of the Democratic-controlled Senate, offered competing deals to break the deadlock over raising the Treasury's ability to continue borrowing money to pay its bills after the current 14.3 trillion dollar limit expires next Tuesday.
Many have predicted dire consequences for the American and global economies should the United States default.
Mr Obama warned of a "reckless and irresponsible" outcome without a compromise by August 2. He urged Americans to make their voices heard and let their representatives know they support "a balanced approach to reducing the deficit."
Mr Boehner responded that Mr Obama wanted "a blank cheque today" and declared "this is just not going to happen."
Mr Obama and the Democrats see it differently, accusing tea party Republicans of putting ideological purity ahead of reality and what is best for the country.
"The only reason this balanced approach isn't on its way to becoming law right now is because a significant number of Republicans in Congress are insisting on a cuts-only approach - an approach that doesn't ask the wealthiest Americans or biggest corporations to contribute anything at all," Mr Obama said.
The president and his Democratic allies have sought a plan that would cut the spiralling US deficit and debt through a package of deep cuts in government spending while increasing tax revenues through revocation of loopholes and the rate cuts for wealthy Americans instituted under former President George W. Bush.