President Barack Obama and Republicans are narrowing the debate on a deficit-cutting plan to a reduction of $1 trillion to $2 trillion, though whether that would settle the issue through the 2012 presidential election remains in doubt, according to budget and debt experts.

White House press secretary Jay Carney insisted yesterday that a "significant" deal is still possible, even as Republicans and Democrats show little signs of compromise on entitlements and taxes, and Republicans remain firm in their demand for spending cuts in excess of the debt-limit increase.

The clock is ticking closer to Aug. 2 — the date when, the Treasury Department estimates, the U.S. risks a default on its debt obligations. "We're going to get a small package and pray that it gets us past the election," said Andy Stern, a Democrat and former president of the Service Employees International Union who served last year on Obama's bipartisan commission that studied ways to reduce the federal debt.

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