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Politics & Government

Boehner's New Pitch To Republicans And Obama: Push Back Debt Deadline


This is ALL THING CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Melissa Block.

House Republicans are back in the Capitol after a 90-minute meeting late this afternoon with the president at the White House. They were there to discuss the government shutdown and a possible debt ceiling breach. If Congress doesn't raise the debt ceiling by October 17th, the country may no longer be able to pay all of its bills.

We're joined by NPR congressional correspondent Tamara Keith for an update. And, Tamara, first, what are Republicans saying about that meeting at the White House?

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Well, they're saying it was a useful conversation, among other things. They went to the White House with an offer. They wanted a short-term extension of the debt ceiling, longer-term discussions about the budget and immediate talks about how to reopen the government. And we spoke with Paul Ryan, who's the Budget Committee chairman, after the meeting.

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN: We put an offer on the table. We had a long, frank conversation about it. And he - we agreed to continue talking and continue negotiating. So, he didn't no, he didn't say yes. He said neither.

KEITH: It seems at this point they are at least negotiating about continuing to negotiate.

BLOCK: Well, the Republicans went in, as you say, talking about lifting the debt ceiling temporarily, a short-term increase for about six weeks but leaving the government closed, that shutdown would continue. Sounds like the discussion has moved on since then.

KEITH: I think it has. They are now, instead of saying and the government would stay shut down, they're very much discussing with some urgency reopening the government. Pete Sessions is a Texas Republican and chairman of the Rules Committee. I also caught up with him after the meeting.

REPRESENTATIVE PETE SESSIONS: We've agreed to have our teams work together to see if we can come together and move forward. And that's what we're going to try and do.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: So negotiations are going to start now between the White House and the House Republicans?

SESSIONS: Tonight.

KEITH: Tonight. And there's a real emphasis on reopening the government. Interestingly, no mention at that meeting, we're told, of the president's health care law.

BLOCK: And we should mention, Tamara, there is a new poll out late today from NBC and the Wall Street Journal showing that this is having a very negative impact on Republicans far more than on Democrats.

KEITH: And I don't if that's why the urgency or if it's just hearing from their constituents or simply the fact that the government is shut down and the president, in that meeting, made it pretty clear that he did not want to have larger discussions with them - at least this is what they're saying - without getting the government reopened. The president reportedly kept saying how can we get the government open.

BLOCK: Now, before President Obama met with the House Republicans, he met with Senate Democrats. What came out of that meeting, Tam?

KEITH: I think in some way maybe it steeled him for his conversations with the Republicans. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has been very hard and very firm on these issues. He has said he does not want to negotiate. No negotiations on anything until the government is reopened and the debt ceiling is off the table. He was asked about that again as he left the meeting.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Republicans were pretty clear earlier today, they want to negotiate before you reopen the government. Is that...

SENATOR HARRY REID: Not going to happen.

KEITH: Not going to happen. Pretty firm on that. And then in the meeting that followed that, the president met with House Republicans and then they came out of that meeting and they were talking about how they could find a way to agree to reopen the government.

BLOCK: OK. And the talks continue. NPR's Tamara Keith at the Capitol. Tamara, thanks.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.