WASHINGTON (AFP) - US President Barack Obama pressed polarized lawmakers Friday to reach a deal quickly to avoid an early August debt default he described as economic Armageddon, amid fevered congressional wrangling. Were obviously running out of time, Obama warned at the White House, as Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives met separately to discuss the way forward and Senate leaders worked on a last-ditch compromise. The president, looking ahead to the November 2012 elections, described the campaign as a vast argument over the US economy and predicted I will win that debate because I think that weve got the better approach. After five straight days of crisis talks ended Thursday without a clear solution, Obama told a press conference that he had given top lawmakers 24 to 36 hours to talk to their rank and file and return to him with a plan. My expectation and hope is that everybody in the coming days is going to be willing to compromise, said Obama, who urged divided Washington to rally behind efforts to do some tough stuff to close the yawning US budget deficit. Economists and finance and business leaders have warned that failure to raise the US debt ceiling above the current $14.3 trillion by August 2 could send shock waves through a world economy still reeling from the 2008 collapse. Ratings agencies Moodys and Standard & Poors have warned they may downgrade Washingtons sterling Triple-A debt rating, and leading US creditor China, Wall Street titan JPMorgan Chase and the Federal Reserve have also sounded the alarm. Republicans, whose votes Obama needs to raise the congressionally set limit, have demanded sweeping spending cuts in return while rejecting calls from the White House and Democrats for tax hikes on the rich and corporations. But Obama warned the calamitous effects of a default would amount to a tax increase on everybody in the form of skyrocketing interest rates. The president left open the door to a fall-back position being crafted by Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell that would pair spending cuts with a debt limit increase. Obama described the complex draft plan, which could let him raise the debt ceiling with just support from fellow Democrats, as the least attractive option, but said it could at least avert Armageddon. The president scoffed at a fresh drive by House Republicans to tie any increase in cash-strapped Washingtons ability to severe spending cuts, no tax increases, and approval of a balanced budget amendment to the US Constitution. If they show me a serious plan, Im ready to move. Even if it requires some tough decisions on my part, he said. That doesnt seem like a serious plan to me. The long-shot Republican plan, which stood little chance of clearing the Democratic-led US Senate, called for a vote Wednesday on a measure they have dubbed Cut, Cap, and Balance. The proposal envisions some $2.5 trillion in spending cuts, caps overall government spending as a percentage of GDP, and calls for a balanced budget amendment. The measure would include a statement that House Republicans will only agree to vote on raising the $14.3 trillion US debt limit if the entire Congress approves a balanced budget amendment to the US Constitution. A vote on that measure which would require two-thirds of the House and Senate to set up a vote by three quarters of the 50 states would follow, trailed by a final ballot on raising the debt ceiling, lawmakers said. Were finally back on offense, Republican Representative Jeff Flake told reporters after a closed-door meeting amid contentious negotiations on raising the US debt ceiling by an August 2 deadline. The proposal came as attention in the hard-fought talks was increasingly focused on the Reid-McConnell discussions on a compromise. That measure, described by aides who warned it was still in flux, would include some $1.5 trillion in spending cuts but would essentially let Obama raise the debt ceiling with only Democratic support in both chambers. A new opinion poll by Quinnipiac University found the US public more ready to blame Republicans than Obama by a 48 percent to 34 percent margin in the event the talks collapse. Washington hit its debt ceiling on May 16 and has used spending and accounting adjustments, as well as higher-than-expected tax receipts, to continue operating normally, but can only do so until August 2.