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Top House Republicans to meet with Obama

This will be Obama's second attempt to court congressional leaders at the White House since the government shut down.
/ Source: MSNBC TV

This will be Obama's second attempt to court congressional leaders at the White House since the government shut down.

The entire House GOP leadership is expected to convene with President Obama at the White House Thursday, marking day 10 of a government shutdown with threats of breaching the debt ceiling just a week away.

This will be Obama’s second attempt to court congressional leaders at the White House—last week leaders of both parties from the House and Senate emerged from the White House showing little hope of a plan out of a government shutdown that has stalled federal services, hitting everything from death benefits for military families to Head Start programs and foods banks around the country. This time around, the meeting will include only House Republican leaders, including relevant committee chairs.

Republican congressmen headed to familiar territory on Wednesday morning, claiming the president was stubborn and unwilling to negotiate. Rep. Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who made a name for himself as a numbers guy, claimed Obama was giving them the “silent treatment.”

“Here’s how we can end this stalemate,” he declared in a Wall Street Journal editorial that doesn’t once mention the healthcare law that prompted the political impasse. “To break the deadlock, both sides should agree to common-sense reforms of the country’s entitlement programs and tax code.”

The GOP wants to paint Obama as an uncompromising budget breaker and Republicans–who continue to pass go-nowhere piecemeal spending bills–as the willing party. The House on Wednesday unanimously passed a bill to reinstate death benefits that help military families pay for funeral and travel costs. The House has passed a number of one-off spending bills to refund various aspects of the government–and not others–most of which the Senate has rejected as not comprehensive enough and part of Washington games. Both parties, though, are expected to come together to fast-track this bill for President Obama’s signature.

“He’s refusing to talk, even though the federal government is about to hit the debt ceiling. That’s a shame—because this doesn’t have to be another crisis. It could be a breakthrough,” Ryan wrote.

Senate Democrats met on the steps of the Capitol Wednesday to press their Republican colleagues in the House to drop the patchwork strategy of funding only parts of the government, and restart the government to kick off debt ceiling negotiations. “We have a simple simple request: Open the government, let us pay our bills. We’ll negotiate on anything you want to negotiate on,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said.

The president will continue a media blitz of his own with a host of regional media interviews on the schedule for Wednesday afternoon. He is also expected to meet with the House Democratic caucus at the White House Wednesday late afternoon, according to a White House official. The president will invite other congressional leaders to meet with him in the coming days, the official said.

On Tuesday, dueling press conferences amped up the drama: In one, Obama suggested a short-term funding bill to reopen the government while negotiations continued. House Speaker John Boehner rejected the offer, there would be no “surrender,” he said.

Sen. Pat Toomey slammed the president Wednesday morning on Morning Joe for not negotiating over spending in the debt ceiling debate.

“What’s totally unacceptable is for the president to think he should be the first president in modern times to not have to address our over spending problem that’s causing the need for all this debt in the first place,” Toomey said.

Obama pointed out Tuesday that raising the debt ceiling is not increasing America’s spending, only paying its existing bills.

“This does not add a dime to our debt,” he said. “It simply says you pay for what Congress has already authorized America to purchase, whether that’s the greatest military in the world or veterans’ benefits or Social Security. Whatever it is that Congress has already authorized, what this does is make sure that we can pay those bills.”

“Democrats today are overplaying their hands given the president’s unwillingness,” Rep. Mark Sanford said. South Carolina’s former disgraced governor and newly reminted Congressman, Rep. Mark Sanford isn’t a stranger to shutdowns; he was part of the caucus that shut down the government in 1995.

Last time, he said, the GOP overplayed their hand, he said. Now, Obama is.

It’s time for “all three parties to sit down at the table and the need for, frankly, Harry Reid and the president not to be dismissive of where the House is coming from,” Sanford stated.

A number of Republicans have tried to deny that catastrophe looms on Oct. 17–the day the Treasury has said it will run out of money to pay its existing debts. The Treasury said a U.S. default could be catastrophic and potentially trigger global response similar to the 2008 financial crisis.

“There’s zero chance that the U.S. is going to default on its debt,” Toomey said, adding that there is more tax revenue than interest payments, so “there’s no way that any Treasury Secretary or administration would willfully choose to have the catastrophic results if we actually defaulted on our debt when it’s not necessary.”

Ryan’s a leader his party is actually comfortable following.

“I didn’t have a chance to read [Ryan’s editorial] yet. But if Paul Ryan wrotei t, I am going to read it because Paul Ryan’s a really smart and thoughtful guy,” Toomey said.  “I’m looking forward to it.”