White House: Appears to be possibility of progress in shutdown, debt ceiling talks
The White House says President Barack Obama welcomes a "constructive approach" from congressional Republicans in a new budget offering but "has some concerns with it."
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney says Obama and House Speaker John Boehner spoke by phone Friday, after officials said House Republicans offered to pass legislation to avert a default and end the 11-day government shutdown.
Their proposal to end the stalemate would include cuts in benefit programs and changes to Obama's health care law.
Carney told reporters Friday he won't get into details of Obama and Boehner's call. But he reiterated that Obama believes the debt ceiling should be lifted without ties to budget negotiations.
Carney said a short-term funding bill and debt limit increase are "the very least that Congress could do."
On Friday, Obama spoke by phone to a group of about 150 leaders of major businesses to give them an update on talks with Congress on lifting the debt ceiling ahead of a default deadline next week, the White House said.
"The president reiterated that his first order of business is to urge Congress to reopen the government and remove the threat of default, and then he is willing to engage with Congress on a long-term budget,'' the White House said.
Obama also spoke with a group of 25 state governors about the government shutdown, now in its 11th day, and its impact on state budgets and the economy.
"He argued that the prolonged shutdown is having adverse consequences on consumer confidence and businesses, and is hurting local economies across the country that rely on tourism at national parks and monuments,'' the White House said.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell says GOP lawmakers are working on trying to come up with a bipartisan solution to the budget stalemate.
Returning from a two-hour meeting at the White House, McConnell told reporters Friday that the session with President Barack Obama was useful and he hoped that Senate Republicans could find a way out of the impasse.
Senate Republicans have had several private discussions on how to end the partial government shutdown and avert a catastrophic economic default.
Obama held discussions with Senate Republicans at the White House Friday morning.
Meanwhile, officials say House Republicans are offering to pass legislation to avert a default and end the partial government shutdown as part of a package that includes cuts in benefit programs.
Senior aides to Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor outlined the proposal at a late-night White House meeting Thursday with senior administration officials.
In addition to ending the shutdown and increasing the debt limit, the proposal includes an easing of the across-the-board spending cuts that began taking effect a year ago, and replacing them with curbs in benefit programs that Obama himself has backed.Among them is a plan to raise the cost of Medicare for better-off beneficiaries.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to discuss private deliberations.
Elsewhere, Republican Representative Tom Cole, who is close to House Speaker John Boehner, told reporters: "If he (Obama) signals back that he is willing to sign a short-term deal" on the debt limit, Republicans would move to negotiate a reopening of the government.
"I don't know why you couldn't have a short term (increase) in the debt ceiling secured this weekend or very early next week," said Cole, who as a House majority deputy whip helps round up votes in support of party leaders.
"And if you are in negotiations, I don't know why you couldn't have the government opened next week," Cole added.
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