WASHINGTON – The political standoff that has gummed up the government for nine days showed no sign of ending Wednesday as Democratic leaders dug deeper into their position that they would not negotiate with Republicans leaders in the House until the government is reopened.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) met with Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), but the 40-minute confab in Boehner’s office showed no signs of untangling the logjam.
Pelosi, in a statement, said Democrats had agreed to lower the budget figure to $986 billion, the Republicans’ baseline spending level, and begin a conference to delve into exactly where government spending would be cut. She said she had 200 House Democrats who would accept the cuts.
But in exchange, Democrats want the Republicans to drop efforts to derail the Affordable Care Act.
“We were disappointed the speaker did not take ‘yes’ for an answer,” Pelosi said. The No. 2 ranking House members from both parties, Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), also were at the meeting.
The two sides couldn’t even agree on who called the meeting. Pelosi said Boehner asked her to meet. Boehner’s office said Democrats called the huddle.
“We’re willing to meet with any Democratic leader who is willing to talk,” Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner, said in a statement.
On the other side of the Capitol on Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) continued to blame Boehner for the shutdown. Speaking on the Senate steps with 37 Democratic senators behind him, Reid said that Boehner has reneged on his promise to pass the Senate spending bill.
“We want the House to pass the bill that the speaker told me he would help us pass. He didn’t say he would help us pass it, he said he would pass it,” Reid said.
Reid did not budge from the party’s position that the government start up again before he is willing to give any concessions to Republicans. “Democrats stand before you united, united to have the Republicans reopen the government, pay our bills, then we’ll negotiate,” he said.
As a Democratic senator from Virginia, Tim Kaine, described how businesses in his state are taking a financial hit while hundreds of thousands of federal workers are furloughed, his voice was drowned out by protesters across the street chanting “Free D.C.!”
They want the Senate to unlock the Washington, D.C., budget, which is subject to congressional approval.
Reid, shaking hands with Washington Mayor Vincent Gray and House Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, who crashed the podium, told a reporter to ask Senate Republicans why the Senate opposes authorizing D.C. officials to spend the city’s $1-billion annual tax revenue without a vote from Congress.
President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will meet with House Democrats at the White House on Wednesday evening to talk about the shutdown debate. Some Democrats hope the president will allay concerns that the White House may open up negotiations with Republicans that could include modifying the Affordable Care Act or giving in to Republican demands for Medicare and other entitlement cuts.
Republican House leaders will meet with Obama at the White House on Thursday. Obama invited the entire House Republican caucus, but the Republicans decided that their leaders would represent them.
Obama has said that Republicans are holding the country hostage for political gain and warned there would be economic aftershocks if Congress didn’t raise the debt ceiling.