Obama to Meet With Hill Leaders on Shutdown

Will huddle at White House as government ends second day of shutdown

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Larry Downing / Reuters

U.S. President Barack Obama in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 1, 2013.

President Barack Obama will huddle with congressional leaders at the White House on Wednesday evening to try find a way out of the first government shutdown in 17 years.

House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell accepted Obama’s invitation to a 5:30 p.m. meeting, a White House official said. Obama and Democratic leaders have been adamant that they won’t negotiate over Republican demands to use the shutdown—and a looming debt ceiling increase—to defund or delay the new health care reform law. But Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said he hopes the meeting signals a softening of that stance.

“We’re pleased the president finally recognizes that his refusal to negotiate is indefensible,” Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said. “It’s unclear why we’d be having this meeting if it’s not meant to be a start to serious talks between the two parties.”

But White House Press Secretary Jay Carney deflated that possibility when he said Wednesday afternoon that Obama isn’t coming to the table to negotiate, but rather just to meet. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew will brief lawmakers on the risks of not raising the debt ceiling when the country’s reaches its borrowing limit later this month, Carney said.

McConnell spokesman Don Stewart said that, “frankly, we’re a little confused as to the purpose of this meeting.”

The government has been in partial shutdown since Tuesday morning.