House Speaker John Boehner, accompanied by fellow House Republicans, speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill today.
(Photo: Susan Walsh AP)
WASHINGTON -- A late Thursday meeting between President Obama and congressional Republicans showed the first sign of progress towards ending the government shutdown and averting the first-ever U.S. default.
No deal was secured, but both the president and top Republicans said they instructed aides to continue talks to find common ground. "The president didn't say yes, didn't say no. We're continuing to negotiate this evening," said House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who attended the meeting. Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., characterized the meeting as "useful" and said negotiations were continuing.
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"The president looks forward to making continued progress with members on both sides of the aisle," the White House said in a statement. "The president's goal remains to ensure we pay the bills we've incurred, reopen the government and get back to the business of growing the economy, creating jobs and strengthening the middle class."
House Republicans presented Obama with a proposal for a six-week increase in the nation's $16.7 trillion debt ceiling to head off an impending Oct. 17 default deadline. The White House had indicated earlier Thursday that Obama might be able to accept a short-term debt-limit extension, but the president made it clear to GOP lawmakers that he also wants a plan to end the shutdown, which began Oct. 1.
House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., said the president is seeking more progress on a stopgap spending bill as part of the debt-limit negotiations. "I think it's clear that he would like to have the shutdown stopped and that would require a (continuing resolution) and we're trying to find out what it is he would insist upon in a CR and what we would insist upon in a CR," Rogers said.
Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, proposed the six-week debt limit plan to the Republican conference Thursday morning to extend the debt ceiling to Nov. 22, but he did not propose a plan to reopen the government. Republicans are seeking an agreement from Democrats to engage in longer-term budget negotiations before that happens.
Democrats have countered that they will engage in budget talks only after the debt ceiling is raised and the government is reopened.
Boehner said the decision to move a clean increase was a GOP effort to meet Obama halfway. "It's time for leadership. It's time for these negotiations and this conversation to begin," he said.
Senate Democrats also met with Obama on Thursday and emerged with a cautious response to the House proposal. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., reiterated that he would not negotiate a broader budget deal with Republicans until after they vote to end the shutdown.
Reid declined to comment on whether the Senate would pass a short-term debt ceiling increase because the situation is fluid. "Let's wait and see what the House does," Reid said. He added that the House "has a unique form of legislating: It's hour by hour."
The Senate will vote Saturday on a key procedural motion to move forward with a one-year clean increase in the debt ceiling, but it is unclear if Reid has the 60 votes it will need to pass.
Republican senators will meet with Obama Friday morning.
The budget impasse began 10 days ago when Republicans initially said they would not support a stopgap funding measure without an agreement to delay or defund Obama's signature health care law. Republicans have moved on from that demand and are now seeking broader fiscal changes on taxes and entitlement programs.