WASHINGTON -- The standoff over the federal budget moved toward at least a temporary end as Speaker John A. Boehner announced Thursday that House Republicans would agree to a six-week extension of the federal government’s ability to borrow to pay its bills, setting up late-night negotiations between the White House and Congress.
In announcing his plan, Boehner said Republicans no longer would insist on any policy changes in return for allowing the government to continue borrowing. But he did not agree to reopen government programs that shut down last week.
At a late-afternoon meeting at the White House, where Boehner and other House GOP leaders presented their proposal, the president told them that he wants the debt ceiling lifted and the government reopened, according to administration officials speaking on condition of anonymity. That put Obama in line with Senate Democrats, who have insisted that both issues be resolved together.
Another senior Republican, Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), said: “I think it's clear that he would like to have the shutdown stopped.”
The issue for negotiators is to find something that Boehner could use to help sell Republicans on ending the shutdown but that Obama could also accept, Rogers suggested.
“We're trying to find out what it is he would insist upon in a CR and what we would insist upon,” Rogers said, using the legislative jargon for a continuing resolution to fund government agencies. The president’s healthcare law, which Republicans spent weeks trying to block or delay as a condition of approving any money bills this fall, was “not discussed,” Rogers said.
Earlier in the afternoon, Senate Democrats emerged from a meeting with Obama insisting that the shutdown end.
“We want the government opened,” Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said.
Some of the Senate’s more centrist Republicans also expressed support for legislation that would end to the shutdown and extend the debt limit.
“We need to do both,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). “The country’s disgusted by this shutdown, and so am I. We need to reopen the government.”
“Both of them have to be resolved,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). “It’s not rocket science.”Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun