GOP, White House Offer Ray of Hope for Deal

GOP, White House Offer Ray of Hope for Deal

By Caitlin Huey-Burns - October 11, 2013

A high-stakes, 90-minute meeting between President Obama and House Republican leaders Thursday night ended in an unusual way: with a flicker of hope.

While the two sides failed to strike a deal on a continuing resolution and a temporary increase of the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling, Republican lawmakers returned to their offices, and to the drawing board, to sketch out a path with White House aides to re-open the government.

“We had a very useful meeting. It was clarifying to both sides as to where we are,” Majority Leader Eric Cantor told reporters after the meeting as he entered the Capitol (along with 19 other Republicans,  including House Speaker Boehner and Budget Chairman Paul Ryan).

The question remains whether Boehner and his team can produce a plan that cajoles the rest of the conference -- and that the president will agree to.

Earlier Thursday, Boehner outlined a plan to delay default by lifting the government’s borrowing authority for six weeks in exchange for an agreement from the president to negotiate on longer-term spending by appointing conferees. House conservatives have been averse to a "clean" debt limit measure, with some doubting the forecasted consequences of a breached deadline, but hoped the bid by Boehner would keep their fight alive on the continuing budget resolution and extract concessions from the White House on the health care law.

The president “didn’t say yes, didn’t say no” to that offer, Ryan told reporters after the meeting in the Roosevelt Room, where Republicans outlined their debt ceiling proposal.

The president -- joined by Vice President Joe Biden, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and Deputy Chief of Staff Rob Nabors -- didn't shut the door on the plan, but demanded a solution on the shutdown as well. The White House has insisted it will not accept any conditions attached to either measure. Afterward, Republicans told reporters they would focus Thursday night on the continuing resolution. 

Boehner ignored questions from reporters as he returned to his office Thursday night. “The leaders laid out the House proposal to temporarily extend the debt limit, formally appoint budget negotiators, and begin immediate discussions over how to re-open the government,” said his spokesman, Brendan Buck, who described the conversation as “productive.”

The White House meeting came as a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found Americans blaming Republicans over Obama for the shutdown, 53 percent to 31 percent, and just 24 percent of having a favorable opinion of the GOP, compared to 39 percent for Democrats.

Kansas Rep. Lynn Jenkins, an attendee, told CNBC afterward that House leaders hoped to have the government re-opened by Monday. However, Buck told RCP that the timing “will be determined by the talks.”

Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers said the two sides were focused on figuring out what each would demand in a continuing resolution and agreed to communicate those stipulations.

There was a greater sense of urgency after the meeting, given the approach of the weekend, after which the partial shutdown will head into its third week. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has also been applying pressure with a bill to extend the debt ceiling through December 2014 without any attachments or concessions. He is expected to begin the first procedural vote on that bill Saturday.

Reid and Senate Democrats also visited the White House on Thursday for a nearly two-hour meeting with the president and his staff about the plan moving forward. When asked afterward if Obama would negotiate before the shutdown is resolved. Reid said simply, “Not gonna happen.” The majority leader said Democrats “will negotiate on anything,” but only after the government is re-opened and the debt ceiling lifted.

But House conservatives believe they offered a “huge concession” with the debt ceiling proposal, Rep. Raul Labrador told RCP after the morning meeting of the GOP conference. Labrador said it was important separate the government-funding bill from a debt ceiling offer to maintain the fight on the continuing resolution. The reason, he explained, is “to continue to fight on Obamacare. To not leave it as a side issue.”

“He wants a clean CR and a clean debt ceiling. That’s not how you negotiate,” Labrador said of the president. “Don’t negotiate any transaction by giving the other side everything they want. That would be a complete capitulation.”

Not everyone emerged from the earlier meeting convinced on the debt ceiling deal, with some lawmakers expressing concern about voting for a clean increase. “Most of the people in this caucus rely heavily on input from their own districts,” said Rep. Matt Salmon of Arizona. “I think you’re going to see a lot of people getting with the people that elected them and talking it through.”

Senate Republicans are slated to meet with the president at 11:15 Friday morning at the White House for their round of talks. Maine Republican Susan Collins has been gathering some support from colleagues on legislation that includes a short-term budget resolution and a short-term debt ceiling hike, along with the repeal of Obamacare’s medical device tax.

Alexis Simendinger contributed to this report. 

Caitlin Huey-Burns is a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @CHueyBurnsRCP.

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