Obama and Boehner Have a Phone Chat, But No End To Shutdown Impasse

Boehner says no 'lines in the sand,' but Obama insists on 'clean' vote to reopen the government

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President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner spoke on the phone Tuesday morning about the continuing government shutdown and looming debt-ceiling crisis, but there was no immediate indication that they made any progress in resolving the Washington impasse.

Both the White House and Boehner’s office confirmed the 10:45 a.m. call, the first direct talk between the two since they met at the White House last Wednesday. With the shutdown in its second week and the country set to hit its borrowing limit on Oct. 17, the White House said Obama reiterated that he’s only willing to negotiate on the budget and other issues “after the threat of government shutdown and default have been removed.” A Boehner spokesman said Obama repeated that “he won’t negotiate on a government funding bill or debt limit increase.” Neither side described what Boehner said during the call.

Obama called Boehner after the Speaker seemed to soften slightly his negotiating tack, telling reporters that he isn’t “drawing any lines in the sand”, a tonal shift from earlier explicit demands that Obama defund or delay his signature health care reform law and agree to big spending cuts.

“All we’re asking for is to sit down and have a conversation,” Boehner said. “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.”

But Obama is digging in, seemingly convinced Boehner will fold once the prospect of an unprecedented debt default looms larger. He said later in the day, once again, that Republican demands are tantamount to ransoming the country’s economic health.

“The American people do not get to demand a ransom for doing their jobs,” Obama said during an appearance at the White House on Tuesday afternoon.

The White House said Obama asked Boehner during their phone call to hold a vote to reopen the government without conditions “immediately” and “allow a timely up-or-down vote in the House to raise the debt limit with no ideological strings attached.”

With the shutdown dragging on, some Republicans were saying there’s a way out in the form of a sequel to the so-called “super committee” that made a failed effort to reach a grand bargain on deficit reduction in 2011. House Republicans unveiled a measure to create such a “bicameral working group on deficit reduction and economic growth.”

Senior GOP lawmakers continued to push Democrats to negotiate.

“I think what’s going to break is, sooner or later, the sides are going to sit down and talk,” Republican House Majority Deputy Whip Tom Cole said. “But nobody is going to give up leverage before they actually start talking. And that’s basically what the President is asking the Speaker to do.”

But Senate Democrats were already signaling that they might move a so-called “clean” debt-limit increase to the floor this week, and the party was holding firm that budget negotiations should only take place after the government is reopened and the debt ceiling raised.

Democrats scoffed at the idea of a new super committee.

“Having served as a member of that super committee, there was nothing super about it.,” House Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra told TIME. “It was just punting. It’s another way of getting out of doing what you should. There is no reason why we can’t just get our work done now.”

And Democratic Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murry said the proposal for a new super committee-like panel to resolve the standoff wasn’t serious.

“If this is a joke, the American people aren’t laughing,” she said in a statement. “The last super committee failed because Republicans insisted on protecting the rich from paying a penny more in taxes, but at least then the goal was to avoid a crisis before it happened. This Republican gimmick is intended to keep two crises going while they again refuse to make any concessions.”

-Alex Rogers, Alex Altman and Zeke J Miller contributed reporting

14 comments
KateMoore
KateMoore

The Smith Act of 1940 is still codified law.  It speaks to sedition, and it has interesting implications for this situation.  It has not been invoked since 1961, but perhaps we should think about that.  (Wikipedia, and other online resources)  To the gentleman who feels the President is trying to cancel the full faith and credit clause---cite your sources, please.  I would like to read that, and study the facts.

KateMoore
KateMoore

This is about governance.  If we are a democracy, we put things out to a vote and the majority rules.  I do not know what to call the 'system' the is currently being pushed by John Boehner (and others, to be sure) that a vote won't be allowed and that if a few people do not get their way it is OK to kick over all the blocks in the playroom.  It's nuts.  And whatever---at this moment in history, the fault is 100% John Boehner's.  It wasn't all his fault at its inception, but right now he could stop it and he won't---so he owns it, part and parcel, completely.  I only wish that he, and every Congressman who voted or votes to shut down government or not pay the bills we already have could be held personally responsible, both criminally and financially.  They need a whole lot more skin in the game.

FrancisMulhare
FrancisMulhare

This is not really about Obamacare..that is just the issue du jour. What it is really about is the defense of democratic principles of conducting government. Are we going to honor voting and electoral processes or are we going to legitimize blackmail , force and coercion as valid political tools. If the latter one has to wonder where will this end. Today it is shutting down the government and threatening to push the country into default ..tomorrow?...targeted assassinations of politicians..a coup d'etat perhaps. Whats at stake here is the very substance and spirit of democratic government and the President is right to stand firm and anyone who cares about the future of this country , whether they be Republican, Democrat  or other , should stand right with him.

jsfox
jsfox

The Republicans had ample opportunity,in fact 18 opportunities, to go into conference, what they are basically suggestion now with this super committee BS. Why didn't they do it before pulling out a gun and putting it to the head of America?

jmac
jmac

China and Japan are grumbling about the trillions they hold in U.S. Treasury Bonds and what another downgrade to our credit rating might mean.   China wants to know why we can't draw a lesson from the last time this happened.  (!)     China doesn't realize the GOP reads the Washington Times and doesn't have a clue about economic history.

 The WSJ editorial has criticized Cruz for causing the GOP to get the blame for the shut down.  The smartest thing conservatives could do is dump the Washington Times, the WSJ  and Fox News.   They are taking them down a path that isn't good for our country and certainly isn't good for the future of the GOP.          

ApostasyUSA
ApostasyUSA

The media tells this tall tale of the plausibility of negotiation between the two major Parties.  Except they leave out the fact that Republicans can’t negotiate, because they can’t give Obama any concessions because they can’t let him, “win” anything.  

Real negotiation lets both sides get something they want, but that’s not the way our media portrays what is going on. What are Democrats going to get in these negotiations? A debt ceiling increase!?

 The news media is carrying the Republicans talking points of, “we just want a conversation” or “ the president won’t negotiate” but largely ignore the fact the that Obama and Democrats are not going to get anything they want out of this because Republicans aren't negotiating in good faith.  The House of Representatives is not going to let Obama have any concessions but the media will continue to spread the lie that there can be some kind of compromise. Why did we have the sequester kick in?  Oh yea, because Republicans wouldn't negotiate in good faith. 


Also, never has the debt ceiling been used as a method for pulling concessions out of government, never.  No matter how many time repukes say it!  Regurgitating the same nonsense over and over might work with the nitwits who keep electing Republicans but it most Americans see right through it. It’s time you folks in the news media do your jobs and tell Americans the truth about what is happening here.  Quit being such sellouts!

Mr Weeper!  It's time you and your frothing at the mouth Republican Party go back to the nitwits that elected you and tell them that you have failed to diminish the legacy of Barack Hussein Obama and you will not be pulling any concessions out of failing to raise the debt ceiling or shutting down the government.  The ACA is here to stay.

Republican have lost the "battle" and lost their minds.  There will be no saving face in this.  Do your job! We can’t keep legislating from crisis to crisis holding our entire economy hostage every time.

jason024
jason024

Memo to Boehner:

There is no need to discuss anything if there is a bipartisan majority in the House to end the shutdown and raise the debt limit.

There was plenty of time to have discussions. Heck there is plenty of time after you temporarily fund the government AND raise the debt ceiling.  

When people's livelihood is at stake, it is hardly time to discuss what should have been done the 18 times the Democrats asked you to talk about the budget before this clownshow.


PaulDirks
PaulDirks

News flash., The debt ceiling is NOT leverage. As far as Obama is concerned, breaking the precedent that the debt limit is a negotiating tool is far more important than the potential downside of a default. 

Failure to understand this simple point is journalistic malpractice. 

AlphaJuliette
AlphaJuliette

@KateMoore

I remember almost three years ago President Obama asked for and got a bipartisan plan to deal with the budget and debt.  It was called "REPORT OF THE NATIONAL COMMISSION ON FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY AND REFORM."  http://www.fiscalcommission.gov/sites/fiscalcommission.gov/files/documents/TheMomentofTruth12_1_2010.pdf

This was the report submitted by Bowles/Simpson that provided guidelines on reducing the national debt and cut & control deficit spending.  It was almost roundly rejected because it proposed a combination of spending cuts and tax increases.

Last April Bowles/Simpson offered a new plan.  http://thehill.com/blogs/on-the-money/budget/294873-bowles-simpson-release-new-debt-plan

The goal of both plans was to put the nation on a fiscally sustainable course by enacting sound, reasonable and responsible legislation.  This plan offers a very intriguing compromise for both sides of the aisle.  And the nation can move forward with confidence.  It's a win-win-win for the Republicans, the Democrats and We the People.

What we have now in D.C. is a steaming load of Road Apples.  It's a no win for everybody.

raidx259
raidx259

So why then has Obama threatened to veto the Full Faith and Credit Act? And why has his crony Harry Reid prevented the Senate version of the bill? All this blackmail, force and coercion, as you put it, could be avoided because the bill would allow the Treasury to pay the government debts even if we hit the ceiling. 

It seems to me that our president is as guilty to want to use default as a bargaining tool as anyone else in Washington. Liberal news channels fail to present all the facts. 

PaulDirks
PaulDirks

@jmac Shall we launch into a discussion of the mechanics of addiction, or shall I simply point out that people like hearing what they already believe?

AlphaJuliette
AlphaJuliette

@jason024 Agreed!  Where was Boehner when the Democrats asked to "sit down and have a conversation?" 

There are reasonable and responsible ways forward.  What the Speaker is doing is none of the above.

jason024
jason024

@raidx259 First off the market isn't going to buy it. Even though this bill gives the creditors some assurance of being paid in the short term.  Not raising the debt ceiling would mean America is effectively a bankruptcy case. Let alone it only allows the payment  of some of our debts. Not all of them.

The market might not even wait for the crunch to happen. If this Bill became Law the market could very well take it as a sure sign that the ceiling is not going to be raised so the Dems are acting sensible by refusing to let it pass the Senate.

How about not passing a budget without the express authorization to fund it. If you pass it and it requires deficits then the debt ceiling will have been deemed to be raised. This legislation is just a backdoor way to enforce draconian cuts on the budget outside normal legislative processes.

Secondly, why should the Democrats give the Republicans leverage? The Republicans have absolutely failed to compromise even after getting goodwill gesture after goodwill gesture. 

This only encourages future Congresses to use the debt ceiling as a bargaining chip when it has no business being debated. If you want to debate the budget fine, but not over the things we already bought.