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J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., center, joined by other Republican senators who want to bypass the holiday recess to stay in Washington and work on the debt crisis, gestures during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, June 29, 2011. From left are: Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., Paul, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and Sen. David Vitter, R-La.

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has a long history of procrastination conspiring against him as he prods Congress to act swiftly to avoid a government default on its financial obligations.

Obama on Wednesday beseeched and badgered lawmakers to complete a deal to cut long-term deficits and raise the nation's debt limit before Aug. 2, which is when the administration says it would have to stop paying some bills.

Obama has faced such countdowns before. He and Congress avoided a government shutdown earlier this year at the last possible moment. And they cut a deal on taxes in December, days before a tax increase would have automatically kicked in.

Such brinkmanship relies on the clock. The problem with Aug. 2 is not that it's too soon, but that it's still four weeks away.