The Republican leadership of the House of Representatives on Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013 conducted a press conference outlining their proposal for a short term debt ceiling solution. In the afternoon, they presented the plan to President Barack Obama at their White House meeting in what was the first step that moved both sides towards negotiations to end both the ten-day old government shutdown and imminent debt ceiling crisis. However, the President later refused the GOP's proposal on Thursday evening, but promised to work with the GOP to find a solution, finally ending the deadlock on negotiations.
In a late-morning press conference Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul D. Ryan, R-WI presented the Republican proposal to end the debt ceiling crisis, a clean bill extending the debt ceiling limit for six weeks until Nov. 22, the bill would not, however end the shutdown. During the extension there would be conference negotiations to cut spending, reducing the deficit and for tax reform. Once the debt ceiling bill passed, the House would end the government shutdown.
Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-OH speaking the press conference attended by GOP leadership, stated their intentions. Boehner claimed; "What we want to do is to offer the president today the ability to move a temporary increase in the debt ceiling [and] an agreement to go to conference on the budget -- for his willingness to sit down and discuss with us a way forward to reopen the government and to start to deal with America's pressing problems. Listen, it's time for leadership. It's time for these negotiations and this conversation to begin."
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney speaking at the daily press briefing responded to the GOP's debt ceiling plan indicating Obama "would likely sign" a short term extension, stating; "The president is happy that cooler heads at least seem to be prevailing in the House, that there at least seems to be a recognition that default is not an option." Continuing he said; "we'll see what the House Republicans propose. We'll see what they're able to pass and consider it then." However, Carney said; "The president strongly prefers a longer-term resolution so that we can get away from this periodic brinksmanship."
Later in the afternoon, 20 Republican members of the House went to the White House and met with President Obama. The President had wanted the entire Republican caucus of 233 members to attend the meeting however, on Wednesday Speaker Boehner decided it would be more productive if the meeting consisted of House leaders and select committee chairman. The meeting lasted for about 90-minutes. Obama finally caved in and gave the House their first serious meeting, negotiating on both crises.
The House members presented a more refined proposal, which was essentially a clean bill debt ceiling billed couple with the President's pledge to negotiate on spending cuts and tax reform. The reasonable bill will guarantee the government would not default on their loans with the deadline pushed back from Oct. 17 to Nov. 22. The threat of the U.S. defaulting on its loans has always been the more severe of two crises, which could lead to ramifications for the global economy.
Upon leaving from the meeting none of the GOP attendees spoke to the waiting press. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-VA commentating on the meeting told the press back at the capitol said “We had a very useful meeting.” Cantor further said; "It was clarifying, I think, for both sides as to where we are, and the takeaway from the meeting was our teams are going to be talking further tonight. We'll have more discussion. We'll come back to have more discussion. The president said he would go consult with the administration folks and, hopefully, we can see a way forward after that." Although the President did not commit to their proposal, Rep. Ryan recounted; "The president didn't say yes, didn't say no. We're continuing to negotiate this evening."
The White House issued a statement after the meeting, which read; "The president looks forward to making continued progress with members on both sides of the aisle. The president's goal remains to ensure we pay the bills we've incurred, reopen the government and get back to the business of growing the economy, creating jobs and strengthening the middle class."
The House Republicans' statement said that both sides "agreed that communication should continue throughout the night. House Republicans remain committed to good faith negotiations with the president, and we are pleased there was an opportunity to sit down and begin a constructive dialogue."
However, just hours after the meeting ended President Obama formally rejected the GOP Houses debt ceiling plan, because it does not also reopen the government. The GOP members intended to work through the evening on the bill and to negotiate with the White House, with plans to schedule a House vote on the proposed bill for Friday.
The meeting has not been deemed a failure because it jump started negotiations between the two sides. President Obama had firmly maintained throughout the crisis that he would not negotiate with the Republicans, while the House GOP insisted only meaning discussions could resolve the problems. At the meeting the President pledged to continue speaking with the Republicans on the two economic issues.
Earlier in the day, the President met with Senate Democrats at the White House, after the meeting ended Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV vowed that the Democratic controlled Senate will not negotiate with the House GOP until a clean spending bill is passed ending the shutdown. Reid told the press; "Not going to happen… The government should be open now. We should be able to pay our debt, and as we've said and we'll continue to say…if that happens, we'll negotiate on anything - anything - and the president confirmed that today."
At the same time Senate Republicans headed by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY worked on their own resolution to both the government shutdown and debt ceiling issues. McConnell plagued by a fierce primary fight with a Republican from the Tea Party in his reelection bid in 2014, has maintained a low profile throughout the conflict. In 2011 when the country faced a potential shutdown and then default, McConnell had been a key voice of reason in negotiations.
The Republicans in the Senate had been working on a bill based 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 Republicans will have their own turn meeting with the President on Friday.
However, the President prefers the Senate Democratic proposal, which will just raise the debt ceiling for a full year, and hopes that if they pass the bill with the needed Republican votes, the House Republicans will find it difficult to unilaterally oppose and overlook the bill. Senate Majority Leader Reid, D-NV is intending to have the Senate conduct a procedural vote on Saturday, Oct. 12.
The government has been partially shutdown since the new fiscal year began on Oct. 1. 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. The President has also been insisting on a clean bill to raise the debt ceiling limit, although he is now open to a short term debt raise as long as there are no strings attached.
While the Republican controlled House of Representatives at this point primarily want the individual mandate provision of Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act delayed in a bill reopening the government, allowing Americans the option to maintain their present healthcare coverage without any penalties imposed.
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 between President Obama and the Republicans was an important first step towards negotiations and ending both crises. What remains troubling however is the President says he open to speaking with the House Republicans, but it does not seem that he is open to true negotiations, and still seems to be refusing any compromise that the Republicans propose.
The other problem is the public's inability to realize how much the House Republicans have compromised since they voted on the first spending bill of the immediate crisis nearly a month ago. A new NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, released on Thursday, Oct. 10 found that Americans by a majority blame the Republicans over Democrats for the shutdown 53 to 31 percent. Their main demand now to reopen the government is to delay the healthcare law's individual mandate, and they are now willing to pass a clean short-term extension on the debt ceiling bill.
Throughout the crisis however, the President has barely moved, maintaining his all or nothing approach demanding clean bills in both instances, the only exception is the small break through on a dialogue with the House GOP. Still the President is going to have compromise himself to end the crises, before the debt ceiling deadline also passes, and there is truly a resulting economic disaster.
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.