No Progress Seen Following White House Meeting on Shutdown

Posted at 7:48 PM, Oct 02, 2013
and last updated 2013-10-02 19:54:21-04

Stock photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

(CNN) — Congressional leaders emerged from a White House meeting on Wednesday evening pointing fingers at members of their respective opposing parties for not doing their part to halt the government shutdown and address the possibility of a federal debt default.

With many other federal workers on furlough, a few still working — President Barack Obama and congressional leaders — met Wednesday, although hopes were slim they would soon overcome sharp partisan differences that have triggered a government shutdown.

The White House meeting was expected to include a briefing on the havoc of not funding the government or allowing it to pay its bills on time through new borrowing authority — a fight that will intensify later this month.

Congressional leaders emerged after an hour and indicated no progress on narrowing their differences.

Obama made clear that he won’t make concessions or engage in give-and-take negotiations with House Speaker John Boehner, whose Republican caucus demands anti-Obamacare provisions be attached to any spending plan needed to end the shutdown that began on Tuesday.

In an interview with CNBC, Obama said he was “prepared to negotiate on anything” regarding the federal budget — but only after Congress passes “a clean piece of legislation that reopens the government” and allows the “Treasury to pay for things that Congress itself already authorized.”

“Am I exasperated?” Obama said of Boehner, who is under pressure from tea party Republicans, and refusing to let the House vote on the Senate-approved spending plan. “I am absolutely exasperated, because this is entirely unnecessary.”

Boehner and other Republicans have complained that Obama and Democrats refuse to negotiate on Obamacare, which took a major step forward this week when exchanges to purchase private health coverage were rolled out.

“We’re pleased the president finally recognizes that his refusal to negotiate is indefensible,” said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Boehner. “It’s unclear why we’d be having this meeting if it’s not meant to be a start to serious talks between the two parties.”

Obama and his party accuse Republicans of trying to force them into defunding or delaying Obamacare by using as leverage the need to fund the government and increase the Treasury’s capacity to borrow money to pay U.S. bills.

“If we get in the habit where a few folks, an extremist wing of one party … are allowed to extort concessions based on a threat of undermining the full faith and credit of the United States, then any president that comes after me … will find themselves unable to govern effectively,” Obama said. “And that is not something that I’m going to allow to happen.”

White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters that it was Republicans attaching partisan demands to what should be congressional responsibilities to fund the government and ensure it can meet its debt obligations.

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The GOP-led House didn’t rest on its laurels Wednesday — pushing through piecemeal spending measures that would fund specific programs, though there’s no indication they will go anywhere in the Democratic-led Senate.

The incremental approach pushed by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas seeks to pressure Democrats to approve spending for programs that Republicans like, but not Obamacare.

An initial effort Tuesday failed because the short-term proposals comprising a tiny portion of the overall federal budget lacked the necessary two-thirds majority support due to Democratic opposition.

But on Wednesday, the House did manage to pass — with majority support — bills to fund national parks, the National Institutes of Health and District of Columbia operations.

Obama has signaled he’d veto those measures should they reach his desk. That’s unlikely given that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has dismissed the approach as “reckless and irresponsible.”

Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter of New York said the easiet solution was for the House to approve the spending proposal for the entire government sent over by the Senate, which lacks any of the anti-Obamacare provisions demanded by Cruz and his allies.