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Obama rebuffs Boehner's plea for fiscal negotiations

10:57 AM, Oct 8, 2013   |    comments
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President Barack Obama called Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, on Tuesday to again tell the top House Republican that he wouldn't negotiate over reopening the government or raising the nation's debt ceiling.

The phone call came within an hour of Boehner's most recent public plea for Obama and Senate Democrats to come to the bargaining table and agree to talks to solve the fiscal impasse.

"The president called the speaker again today to reiterate that he won't negotiate on a government funding bill or debt limit increase," Boehner aide Brendan Buck emailed reporters.

According to the White House, Obama "repeated what he told him when they met at the White House last week: the President is willing to negotiate with Republicans -- after the threat of government shutdown and default have been removed."

Obama also again demanded that Boehner bring up a clean extension of government spending and a clean approval of increased borrowing authority.

The call occurred at around 10:45 a.m., just a short while after Boehner emerged from a closed-door meetings to put the pressure on Obama to negotiate.

"There's never been a president in our history been a president who didn't negotiate over the debt limit. Never. Not once," Boehner said following a closed-door meeting with fellow Republicans.

But the very subject of whether to negotiate has set Obama and Boehner apart -- a difference on top of their opposing views over how to fund the government, and whether to preserve health care reform.

Obama and his Democratic allies have said they are more than happy to negotiate over any number of topics, but only after Republicans vote to approve a clean extension of government spending and authorize an increase in the debt limit.

"We're not going to negotiate under the threat of further harm to our economy and middle-class families," Obama said Monday at FEMA headquarters in Washington. "We're not going to negotiate under the threat of a prolonged shutdown until Republicans get 100 percent of what they want."

Democrats, meanwhile, have challenged Boehner to demonstrate his assertion over the weekend that a clean spending bill to reopen the government or a clean extension of the debt ceiling couldn't pass the House.

"Speaker Boehner insists that the Senate-passed bill to end this shutdown can't pass the House," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Tuesday. "Well, I'm not the first to issue this challenge ... and that is, prove it. Bring it up for a vote."

In short, political gamesmanship continued its stranglehold of Washington as the nation's political leaders barreled toward the Oct. 17 deadline by which they must raise the nation's debt limit or risk a severe shot to the U.S. economy and global financial markets.

There had been some speculation Tuesday that Republicans might consider a short-term extension of both spending and the debt limit in order to enter into serious fiscal talks with Obama. It would hand Democrats a minor victory immediately, but offer up a chance for the GOP to lock in reduced spending levels under the automatic "sequester" spending cuts. Republicans could also look to win entitlement or tax reforms as a result of such negotiations.

As Republicans mull their path forward, GOP leaders laid out a new plan to their rank-and-file on Tuesday that envisions the House passing two bills this week, one to guarantee pay for essential workers who have stayed on the job throughout the shutdown.

The other bill would establish a bipartisan negotiating team to tackle the debt limit and other fiscal issues, somewhat resembling some of the other official panels and working groups that have unsuccessfully tried to resolve the deep fiscal differences between Democrats and Republicans in recent years.

It's not clear that this group would have any greater success, though, especially since its authority is nonbinding -- unlike some of the past panels, like the 2011-2012 "supercommittee."

Boehner dismissed talk of such a temporary resolution as "a lot of speculation," refusing to engage with a reporter's question. And the Republican speaker said that he didn't have any particular standard by which he's measuring the GOP's willingness to enter into an eventual deal.

"I'm not drawing any lines in the sand," he said, later adding: "There's no reason to make it more difficult to bring people to the table. There's no boundaries here. There's nothing on the table, there's nothing off the table. I'm trying to do everything I can to bring people together and have a conversation."

As the shutdown continued to play out, there were increasing signs that the GOP was shouldering more of the political blame for the shutdown. An ABC News/Washington Post poll released Monday found, for instance, that seven in 10 Americans disapprove of the way congressional Republicans have handled negotiations over the federal budget.

USA TODAY

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