Shutdown standoff: GOP offers to open more of the government, Dems say all or nothing

 
Loading...
 
Because of the government shutdown, Eduardo Echeverria, a federal law enforcement ranger at Everglades National Park, closes the main gate at 6 p.m.
Because of the government shutdown, Eduardo Echeverria, a federal law enforcement ranger at Everglades National Park, closes the main gate at 6 p.m.
MARICE COHN BAND / Miami Herald/MCT)


McClatchy Washington Bureau

President Barack Obama and congressional leaders struggled Wednesday to find a path to ending the shutdown that closed much of the federal government for a second day and threatened to last far longer.

Obama and the four leaders of the House of Representatives and the Senate met at the White House for nearly 90 minutes, their first meeting since before the government shutdown. Little progress was apparent and both sides emerged offering the pointed, partisan complaints they had been making through days of the standoff.

“The president reiterated one more time tonight that he will not negotiate,” said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, in terse remarks to reporters after the session.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called the meeting “unproductive” and said he was “disappointed” that Obama did not encourage Democrats to appoint a small group of negotiators to hash out a compromise with Republicans, as they have requested.

Democrats were just as somber but more expansive. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., insisted Boehner only wants to negotiate keeping the government open for a few weeks, rather than talk about a longer term budget. “We’re through playing these little games. It’s all focused on Obamacare, that’s all it’s about,” said Reid, speaking about Republicans’ insistence the Affordable Care Act be diluted or delayed.

The White House meeting also included Vice President Joe Biden and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and featured a presentation about the dangers of default – the nation is expected to exhaust its borrowing authority in two weeks. “We should take the debt ceiling debate off the table,” insisted House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California.

Some Republicans are expected to craft a budget package that could reopen the government while increasing the debt limit.

Even before the leaders arrived at the White House, Obama’s aides made clear that the president would not negotiate until after Republicans agreed to reopen the government at current spending levels.

“He’s not going to engage in that kind of negotiation because he does not want to hold – or have held the openness of the government, the functioning of the government, or the world and American economy hostage to a series of demands,” said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.

The impasse has caused the first government shutdown in 17 years, with no end in sight. With the debt limit needing an increase by Oct. 17, Capitol lawmakers have suggested the budget and debt limit talks be merged. But Obama has said repeatedly Congress should raise the debt ceiling, and that he will not negotiate on the issue.

Reid offered one way forward, saying he was willing to engage in negotiations over a long-term budget plan if Boehner allowed the House of Representatives to vote on a government funding plan with no strings.

Reid and Boehner spoke earlier Wednesday, and Reid described the conversation as “cordial.” Boehner, though, was unenthusiastic about Reid’s idea, and hours later, House Republicans gathered on the Capitol steps to protest the closing of the World War II Memorial on the National Mall.

House Republicans, who control that chamber, also continued their futile effort to open parts of the government.

They spent the day debating bills to fund the National Park Service, the National Guard, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the District of Columbia, knowing they’d go nowhere in the Democratic-led Senate.

Obama remained opposed to the House’s piecemeal approach to funding the government, even though the president signed a bill into law earlier this week that would pay U.S. troops around the globe during the shutdown.

While the rhetoric sizzled, leaders were making behind-the-scenes bids to find common ground. Reid sent Boehner a one-page letter recalling how he backed President George W. Bush 11 years ago when Bush sought authority to invade Iraq.

“I could have taken the steps that you are taking now to block government funding in order to gain leverage to end the war,” Reid told Boehner. “But I did not do that. I felt it would have been devastating to America.”

Put the “clean” budget, funding the federal government temporarily, to a House vote, Reid said, and “I commit to name conferees to a budget conference as soon as the government reopens.”

Such a conference, or negotiation, would include top congressional budget-writers, who would try to work out a longer-term spending and tax plan.

Boehner’s camp had an icy response. “Offering to negotiate only after Democrats get everything they want is not much of an offer,” said spokesman Michael Steel.

Carney said Obama remains willing to negotiate on the budget and the health care law but not until Republicans agree to reopen the government and pay its bills with the higher debt ceiling.

“Today’s meeting is about the need to open the government, and the need to ensure that we do not default,” he said.

“And the president’s made clear that he will – that he is happy and willing, as he has been all year round, all year long, to engage in serious conversations and negotiations with Republican lawmakers who want to find common ground on our budget challenges – absolutely willing to,” Carney said. “What he is not willing to do is negotiate under the threat of default or under the threat of continuing to shut down the government.”

Obama met with more than a dozen Wall Street bankers, who warned of the consequences of the shutdown and the potential failure to raise the debt ceiling next month.

“There’s a consensus that we shouldn’t do anything that hurts this recovery that’s a little bit shallow, not very well established and is quite vulnerable,” Lloyd Blankfein, chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs, said after the meeting. “The shutdown of the government and particularly a failure to raise the debt ceiling would accomplish that.”

Earlier in the day, Obama canceled two of four stops on an upcoming trip to Asia to return to Washington because of the government shutdown.

The White House announced that Obama called Malaysia Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and Philippines President Benigno Aquino on Tuesday night to deliver the news.

The White House hasn’t yet canceled the rest of the trip, with Obama scheduled to leave Washington Saturday night for Asia summits in Indonesia and Brunei.

Email: dlightman@mcclatchydc.com; akumar01@mcclatchydc.com; Twitter: @lightmandavid; @anitakumar01

Read more Politics Wires stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
President Obama holds up four-month-old Ryan Kelley, of Richmond, R.I., while greeting a gathering shortly after arriving at T.F. Green Airport in Warwick, R.I., Friday, Aug. 29, 2014. The president traveled to Rhode Island to attend a Democratic fundraiser in Newport on Friday.

    Obama on Labor Day: Don't take rights for granted

    President Barack Obama is asking Americans this Labor Day to think about the rights and benefits that people often take for granted.

  • 5 things to watch in final 2 months of election

    The final two months of campaigning in Michigan will determine if Republicans continue their four-year control of state government and who will succeed U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, a retiring Democrat who has held his seat for nearly 36 years.

  •  
FILE - In this April 3, 2014 file photo, Democratic candidate for governor Mark Schauer speaks during a news conference in Grand Rapids, Mich. Political TV ads are set to escalate in the final two months of the race between Republican Gov. Rick Snyder and Schauer, as the campaigns and their deep-pocketed outside allies sharply focus their message to voters.

    Airwaves heat up in race for Michigan governor

    Political TV ads are set to escalate in the final two months of the race between Republican Gov. Rick Snyder and Democrat Mark Schauer, as the campaigns and their deep-pocketed outside allies sharply focus their message to voters.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category