As the partial government shutdown drew to the end of its 11th day, Friday found Democrats and Republicans continuing to talk. But there was no breakthrough to reopen the government and keep the United States from defaulting on its debt obligations.
Obama Rejects House GOP Proposal
The central hang-up remained House Republicans' insistence that Democrats agree to conditions before Republicans agree to hike the debt limit and reopen the government.
Republicans' initial proposal was that they would agree to end the debt ceiling and shutdown crises if President Obama and congressional Democrats agreed to future negotiations to slow the growth of entitlement spending.
Obama and congressional Democrats continued to reject that notion, saying that neither ending the shutdown nor preventing a potentially catastrophic default should be subject to "ransom."
White House press secretary Jay Carney told journalists Friday afternoon:
"The president did call and speak with the speaker of House this afternoon, not long ago, had a good conversation. And the two of them agreed that all sides need to keep talking on the issues here that are confronting us that have led to a shutdown of a government and to the situation that has put us on the precipice of, you know, potential default or at least reaching that line beyond which the United States government does not have borrowing authority."
Obama Meets Senate GOP
Obama met with Senate Republicans Friday, a day after House GOP leaders sat down with the president. Some senators seemed optimistic after their White House meeting, if not sensing an imminent solution.
"It was a good exchange, but it was an inconclusive exchange," said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, of the nearly two-hour meeting. Collins has been working with a bipartisan group of senators to resolve the standoff, and she said she had a chance to describe for Obama her complicated proposal. Besides reopening the government and raising the debt ceiling for several months, her plan would repeal the Affordable Care Act's medical device tax and add income verification to the health insurance exchanges.
Obama listened carefully and said there were certainly aspects the two sides could work on in the future, she said, but he endorsed none of it.
Cruz Attacks Obamacare
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, one of the health care law's fiercest and most vocal Republican foes, told reporters that he informed the president at the meeting that he wanted "substantial" changes to Obamacare to relieve burdens he has repeatedly alleged the law is placing on many individuals and companies.
Reporters asked Carney, the president's spokesman, for his description of the encounter. He declined.
Before going to the White House with his Republican Senate colleagues, Cruz was targeted by hecklers Friday morning. The anti-Cruz protesters had sprinkled themselves through the pro-Cruz audience at the conservative Family Research Council's Values Voters annual conference and repeatedly interrupted his red-meat speech. Several were forced to leave, and those who remained were drowned out by Cruz fans chanting U-S-A.
Both the House and the Senate are scheduled to be in session over the weekend. House Republicans are expected to meet Saturday morning for an update on where matters stand.
Congress was scheduled to be on recess next week for the Columbus Day holiday, but now both chambers are scheduled to be in session.
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