WASHINGTON – House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) flatly ruled out a potential short-term deal to reopen the government Tuesday, saying it would amount to "unconditional surrender."
Boehner, responding to President Obama’s hourlong news conference, said he remained "disappointed" that Obama refused to consider talks centered on House-passed spending measures that included provisions tied to the healthcare law and that would "provide fairness" to Americans.
He also insisted that any action to raise the nation’s debt limit should be in concert with steps to limit future borrowing. "There is going to be a negotiation here," Boehner told reporters. "It's time to have that conversation, not next week, not next month; the conversation ought to start today."
Asked about Obama saying he would be open to a potential short-term spending bill and debt limit increase that might allow the parties time to discuss a broader budget deal, Boehner bristled. "What the president said today was, if there is unconditional surrender by Republicans, he'll sit down and talk to us. That's not the way our government works," he said.
One full week into the shutdown, the growing frustration of parties at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue showed their first signs of boiling over. Obama said Tuesday afternoon that he had shown himself "willing to go more than halfway" in talks with Republicans.
"If reasonable Republicans want to talk about these things again, I'm ready to head up to the Hill and try. I'll even spring for dinner again," he said. "But I'm not going to do it until the more extreme parts of the Republican Party stop forcing John Boehner to issue threats about our economy. We can't make extortion routine as part of our democracy."
As Obama spoke, the Democratic-controlled Senate was taking initial steps toward putting off the possibility of a first-ever default. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), in a rare move, called for all senators to appear in the chamber to announce the introduction of a measure to suspend the debt ceiling through 2014.
"We may have our differences, Democrats and Republicans, but we should not hold the full faith and credit of this great country hostage while we resolve it," he said.
Later, the House held a first procedural vote on a new proposal from the Republican majority designed to draw Democrats back to the negotiating table. The main component would create what’s called a Deficit Reduction and Economic Growth Working Group. The new bipartisan panel of lawmakers from both the House and the Senate would aim to recommend a package of spending cuts and reforms that would be considered along with any debt limit increase.
Its membership would be equally divided among the parties, with 10 members from both the House and Senate. To be adopted, a final proposal would need the approval of the majority of Democratic appointees from the Senate and Republican appointees from the House.
Unlike the 2011 "super committee," a byproduct of that year’s debt limit resolution, there would be no mechanism that would pressure Congress to act on any recommendations. The failure of the super committee resulted in the sequestration, or across-the-board spending cuts, that lawmakers are continuing to grapple with today.
Democrats dismissed the idea as doomed to the same fate of the 2011 effort. And even Republicans with ties to leadership questioned its viability. "Sooner or later there’ll be some sort of bipartisan group that is successful. Whether it’s this one or not I don't know," said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.).
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