WASHINGTON - House Republicans said President Obama asked them to revise their proposal for a six-week increase in the nation's $16.7 trillion debt ceiling. The plan is intended to avoid a first-ever U.S. default on debts.
The White House had indicated earlier Thursday that Obama might be able to accept a short-term debt-limit extension. But House Republicans emerged from a meeting with with the president indicating that more negotiations were still necessary.
House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told reporters, "The president didn't say yes, didn't say no. We're continuing to negotiate this evening." Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said "We had a very useful meeting and we expect further conversations tonight."
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. He said staff was working late Thursday on possible negotiations on a stopgap spending bill that could reopen government. "The resolution was we had a good, frank discussion, clarifying issues on both sides," Rogers said. "We're trying to find if there is a way to quickly settle the CR questions, so that we can pass a CR and stop the shutdown."
The White House issued a readout of the meeting, saying "After a discussion about potential paths forward, no specific determination was made. The president looks forward to making continued progress with members on both sides of the aisle. 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."
Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, proposed the plan to the full Republican conference Thursday morning to extend the debt ceiling to Nov. 22. As of now, the Treasury Department says the nation will hit its debt ceiling Oct. 17 and would begin defaulting on debts shortly thereafter. The extension would provide time for further budget talks.
The decision to seek approval for a short-term increase is in part because Obama and congressional Democrats have declined to engage with Republicans in budget talks.
Democrats have said they will only negotiate after Republicans vote to increase the debt ceiling and end the government shutdown, now in its 10th day. Boehner's plan does not address the ongoing shutdown.
Boehner said before the White House meeting the decision to move a clean increase a GOP effort at meeting Obama halfway. "It's time for leadership. It's time for these negotiations and this conversation to begin," he said.
Senate Democrats met with Obama Thursday and emerged with a cautious response to the House proposal.
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the specifics of the House plan had changed several time over the course of the day, "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." Reid also said he would not negotiate a broader budget deal with Republicans until after they vote to reopen the government.
Republican senators have been invited to the White House for similar talks Friday morning.
The budget impasse began ten days ago when Republicans initially said they would 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 reforms on taxes and entitlement programs.
Obama and congressional Democrats have said they would not negotiate over the health care law or other budget issues only after the government is reopened and the debt ceiling is raised.