WASHINGTON — President Obama plans to meet with House Republicans on Thursday, but the two sides are already clashing over the guest list.
An aide to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said he is sending only an 18-member delegation to the White House because a smaller meeting has a better chance of resolving disputes over the government shutdown and debt ceiling.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama is "disappointed" that Boehner is "preventing" all 233 House Republicans from attending.
"The president thought it was important to talk directly with the members who forced this economic crisis on the country about how the shutdown and a failure to pay the country's bills could devastate the economy," Carney said.
Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said that "nine days into a government shutdown and a week away from breaching the debt ceiling, a meeting is only worthwhile if it is focused on finding a solution -- that's why the House Republican Conference will instead be represented by a smaller group of negotiators, including the elected leadership and certain committee chairmen."
Many House Republicans are insisting that a new spending plan, or an increase in the debt ceiling, include a delay of the Obama health care law, a provision the president opposes.
Obama also met late Wednesday with members of the House Democratic caucus about the ongoing government shutdown and the prospect of a debt ceiling default.
House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Obama emphasized he is open to any discussion about the budget -- once the government is re-opened.
"We can talk when the government is open," Hoyer said. "The government doesn't need to be shut."
The president will also meet with Senate Democrats on Thursday, and Senate Republicans later in the week.
"This is about the president meeting with as many members of Congress as he can to talk about these very important issues and the need to make sure that we don't inflict severe damage on our economy and on our middle class unnecessarily," Carney said.
In recent days, Obama has refused House Republican requests to negotiate a new spending plan that would end the government shutdown and include a delay of the health care plan.
Obama is also refusing to negotiate on the need to raise the $16.7 trillion debt, which the Treasury Department expects to breach on Oct. 17, a week from Thursday.
The debt ceiling gives the government authority to borrow money to pay the nation's debts. Without an increase, the government faces a default that Obama says will create an "economic shutdown."