The political and financial crisis gripping the U.S. appeared yesterday to have deepened after U.S.

President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner accused one another in nationally televised speeches of failing to negotiate in good faith to avert an unprecedented and catastrophic American default early next week.

Positions seemed only to harden after Obama and Boehner engaged in an extraordinary joust over fiscal issues that have consumed Washington.

With stalemate in the air, Boehner pushed ahead with his two-step plan, a short-term bill to cut spending about $1.2 trillion US and extend the debt ceiling for about six months that could come to a vote today. House Republican leaders scheduled a second vote tomorrow on a balanced-budget constitutional amendment long favoured by rank-and-file conservatives.

In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid challenged Republicans to back his competing legislation, arguing that the no-taxes, government-cuts proposal was just what they wanted.

Obama and his Democratic allies have sought a plan that would cut the spiralling U.S. 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. Republicans, under the sway of their tea-party wing, refuse to even consider higher taxes.