GOP leaders offered a temporary increase in the $16.7 trillion debt limit in return for negotiations over the federal budget. Obama "didn't say yes, he didn't say no," said Paul Ryan--making the best of it.
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, leaves his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 10,2103, for the White House and a meeting with President Barack Obama regarding the ongoing budget fight. (Photo by Evan Vucci/AP)
President Obama met with a group of 20 House Republicans for about an hour and a half on Thursday to discuss a GOP plan for a short-term increase in the debt ceiling. Obama had said earlier that he would not agree to any extension that didn’t first end the shutdown, and the Republican offer did not meet that standard.
GOP Rep. Paul Ryan told NBC News, “The president didn’t say yes, he didn’t say no. It was a useful conversation. We’re now going to negotiate.”
House Speaker John Boehner left the White House without saying a word to reporters. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor also called the meeting “useful” and said it was “clarifying, I think, for both sides as to where we are.” The Virginia Republican said the two parties “would be talking further tonight.”
(In Washington-speak, meetings can be characterized as “candid,” “frank,” or even “fruitful.” This one was so bad, the term of choice was “useful.”)
The apparent rejection of the GOP’s offer came as a new NBC/WSJ poll showed that support for Republicans is plummeting, while approval of Obamacare is rising. The public’s growing frustration only increases pressure on GOP leaders; it also makes it easier for Obama to hang tough.
Boehner earlier in the day blamed President Obama and the Democrats for the current fiscal crisis, arguing that they had been unwilling to come to the bargaining table. “I would hope that the president would look at this as an opportunity and a good faith effort on our part to move halfway…in order for these conversations to begin.”
Cantor described the proposed extension as an exchange for “a real commitment by this president …to sit down and talk about the pressing problems facing the American people.”
The House leadership’s remarks come on Day 10 of the shutdown and just seven days from the country entering into default unless Congress can agree to a debt ceiling increase. The president has said that he was willing to negotiate with the GOP, but that the government must reopen first. Obama has called for a debt-limit increase without any conditions, but GOP leaders had previously refused to budge unless specific spending reductions are put in play in exchange for a debt-limit hike.
The shutdown is a result of Republican who are quixotically rallying around a plan to delay or defund Obamacare. It is unclear how the proposal would affect the shutdown.
Senate Democrats after meeting with Obama on Thursday afternoon remained skeptical.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said “Let’s wait and see what the House does,” jabbing that the GOP-led House “has a unique form of legislating—it’s hour by hour.” When asked about the probability of the Senate voting on a debt ceiling extension without first reopening the government, Reid said it’s “not going to happen.”
The message and Obama’s rejection seemed to contradict what White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said earlier in the day—that while the president would like to see both done, he would sign off on the extension, but that the White House had yet to see anything from House GOPers.
At a press conference, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi also said the six-week extension is “not the right way to go,” adding “I think we should go at least one year so that there’s some certainty in the markets that every six weeks people don’t have to wonder if the United States of America is going to stand by its full faith and credit…Nonetheless, let’s see what they have to offer.”
Two Democratic leadership aides told NBC News that while they have concerns about the short-term, Republican proposal, they aren’t ruling it out.
“Unlike their past proposals, it’s definitely not an automatic ‘no,’” one of the aides said, adding if it were a choice between a six-week extension or going into default, the proposal would be “hard to oppose.” The aides noted, however, that there’s no guarantee the deal would even pass in the House.
With NBC News’ Kasie Hunt.