Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner, R-OH may be getting the negotiations he has been requesting all through the government shutdown and debt ceiling crisis. First on Wednesday morning Oct. 9, 2013 Boehner met with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. and then President Barack Obama invited all members of both parties to meet with him at the White House.
President Obama will be holding the meetings over two days, Wednesday, Oct. 9 and Thursday, Oct. 10, where he intends to meet with the House and Senate Republicans. But the question remains will the meetings be about finding solutions, or will the President just be hammering in his all or nothing approach to the crisis without listening at all to the Republican side.
President Barack Obama has decided to meet with members of the House of Representatives from both the Democratic and Republican parties in an attempt to end the nine-day old government shutdown. A White House official announced on Oct. 9, 2013, the President will have separate meetings with the caucuses of both parties. Obama met with the House Democrats, Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 9, and will meet with the House Republicans and Senate Democrats and Republicans on Thursday, Oct. 10.
The President's meeting with the 200 House Democrats held in the White House's East Room was a friendly affair, and was described by the New York Times as a "pep rally." House Democrats stand with the President in all his positions regarding clean bills to end the government shutdown and raising the debt ceiling limit, and thoroughly agree with Obama on Obamacare, the health care law, and to not negotiate with Republicans.
The White House statement on the meeting read; "The President and the House Democrats reaffirmed their shared belief that we cannot let one faction of the Republicans in the House demand a ransom for Congress doing its job and paying the bills we have already incurred."
Even with a scheduled meeting, the President and the Speaker are at odds over its details, especially who will be attending. Obama wants the House's whole Republican caucus of 233 members be in attendance, whereas Boehner plans to bring only 18 members of the GOP caucus. The Speaker believes it best to keep the meeting smaller and only with Republican House leadership and committee chairmen.
Republicans however, are skeptical about meeting with the President at all when he made it repeatedly clear even at his Tuesday, Oct. 8 press conference that he will not negotiate with Congressional Republicans until they at least pass clean bills to fund the government and raise debt ceiling.
Boehner wants the meeting to be about "solutions", which is the reason for the select guest list to attend the meeting with the President. According to one of his spokesmen Brendan Buck; "It is our hope that this will be a constructive meeting and that the president finally recognizes Americans expect their leaders to be able to sit down and resolve their differences… That's why the House Republican Conference will instead be represented by a smaller group of negotiators, including the elected leadership and certain committee chairmen."
Democrats however, believe it is because Boehner wants to keep Republicans vulnerable to being swayed by the President's message and demands away from him, lest they be talked in to voting for the clean bills and end the more or less unified Republican front against the President's intimidation.
White House Press secretary Jay Carney speaking at Wednesday's daily press briefing indicated that the President is "disappointed that Speaker Boehner is preventing his members from coming to the White House." Continuing, he explained; "The President thought it was important to talk directly with the members who forced this economic crisis on the country about how the shutdown and a failure to pay the country's bills could devastate the economy." The House Republicans will hold their own press conference on Thursday morning, Oct. 10 at 11 a.m.
Meanwhile both sides are continuing to get their message across to the public; Majority Leader Cantor and Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-WI, both wrote op-eds about the debt ceiling crisis published on Wednesday, Oct. 9. While President Obama held interviews with local television stations along the east coast in markets where there is the highest concentration of furloughed federal workers.
The four leaders of both parties in the House also met together on Wednesday morning, Oct. 9, the first such meeting between the two sides since the shut down started. House Minority Leader Pelosi requested the meeting from Speaker of the House Boehner, which was also attended by Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-VA and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-MD. The meeting lasted 40 minutes and started at 11:15 a.m. in the morning.
Very few details emerged about the meeting, but afterwards one of Boehner's spokesman Michael Steel explained to the press that "Reps. Pelosi and Hoyer asked for the meeting, and as we've stated publicly, we're willing to meet with any Democratic leader who is willing to talk." Pelosi stated after the meeting that she offered the 200 Democrat House votes if Boehner allows a vote on a clean spending bill, stating; "We were disappointed the Speaker did not take 'yes' for an answer."
After his meeting with Pelosi, Speaker Boehner took to the House floor explaining the Republican's position on the current crises. Boehner stated; "Our message in the House has been pretty clear. We want to reopen our government and provide fairness for all Americans under the president's health care law. What a train wreck. How can we tax people for not buying a product from a website that doesn't work? How can we give big business a tax break and leave hardworking families out in the cold? This is why we need to sit down and have a conversation about the big challenges that face our country."
The House and Senate are individually considering solutions to the two crises and are intending to work on Saturday to find a solution. Both parties in the House are considering a short term debt ceiling raise that President Obama stated he is open to; however, Republicans may include provisions to cut spending in their proposed bill. Republicans are fucusing more on spending cuts than the healthcare law in concessions with Democrats as the shutdown wears on.
The Senate is considering a proposal by moderate Republican Susan Collins, R-ME, who has devised a compromise solution that would end the shutdown, raise the debt limit, repeal the medical device tax, and allow federal agencies to determine how to deal with the sequester spending cuts. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV will have the Senate conduct a procedural vote on Saturday, Oct. 12 suspending the debt limit for the 2014 year, the vote needs six Republicans to pass.
The government has been partially shutdown since the new fiscal year began on Oct. 1. There has been little progress to end the first government shutdown in 17 years with both the Democrats and Republicans spending most their time blaming each other. The debt ceiling of $16.7 trillion will also reach its limit on Oct. 17, without passing a bill to raise the debt ceiling limit the U.S. will default on its loans.
At the core of the conflict is the Democratic Senate and President Obama wanting a "clean bill," a stop-gap spending bill referred to as a Continuing Resolution (CR) without out any provisions attached.
While the Republican controlled House of Representatives has been insisting on some provisions to delay aspects of Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, the new healthcare law which started to formally be implemented with the health insurance marketplace being opened to individuals and families to start enrolling on Oct. 1, 2013.
The President is also insisting on a clean bill to raise the debt ceiling limit, although he is now open to s short term debt raise as long as there no strings attached. However, the Republicans want to add spending cuts provisions to the measure, something the President vowed to veto, and would surely not pass the Democratic Senate.
Approximately 800,000 federal employees are furloughed as a result of the shutdown out of 2 million, and will also affect all aspects of the government at a time when the fragile economy is just starting to recover.
There have been a total of 17 prior government shutdowns in American history between the 1970s and 1990s with the December-January, 1995-1996 shutdown being the longest clocking in at 21 days. Then as now a Democratic President Bill Clinton was in a fierce ideological battle with a Republican House of Representatives.
The meeting President Obama has scheduled with Republicans will be useless unless he intends to negotiate with them. Or maybe that is exactly what Obama wants to make appear as; that he is being conciliatory, but then blames the Republicans for not agreeing with him, using the same method with actions as he has in rhetoric the past three weeks.
The public relations ploy is working. A newly released Gallup poll from Wednesday, Oct. 9 states the government leadership is the country's top problem at 33 percent doubled from the 16 percent last month. While a new Associated Press-Gfk poll released also on Wednesday states the blame for the shutdown is squarely on Congressional Republicans, with 6 out of 10 Americans placing the blame on the GOP and Congress showing up with their lowest approval rating ever at 5 percent.
Both sides of Congress need to step up and compromise, because the fallout of the shutdown may not have been that catastrophic, but if the United States, the world superpower defaults on its loans it will have dire ramifications for the American and worldwide economy, and it all would not have been worth it for a power play.
Bonnie K. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program. Her specializations are US, Canadian & Israeli politics.