President Barack Obama and congressional leaders failed to reach a deal Wednesday evening to end the government shutdown or avert a looming debt default.
“The president reiterated one more time he will not negotiate,” Speaker John A. Boehner told reporters after the White House meeting, which lasted more than an hour.
The Ohio Republican again called on the Senate to go to conference on a continuing resolution to resolve the chambers’ differences over Obamacare — something Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., later told reporters was a nonstarter.
Boehner said the group had “a nice conversation, a light conversation, but at some point, we have to allow the process to work out. ... It’s time for them to appoint conferees. All we’re asking for here is a discussion and fairness for the American people under Obamacare.”
Reid, however, said that he and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., would not agree to undermine the 2010 health care law via a temporary spending bill. The Nevada Democrat said he offered to go to conference with Republicans and discuss with Boehner anything he wants to discuss — once he agrees to pass a “clean” CR and reopen the government.
Reid said Boehner won’t accept yes for an answer.
“I thought I was throwing him a lifeline,” the Nevada Democrat said, noting his proposal to go to conference once the government is open. “All we want you to do is open the government.”
Reid said he is willing to talk about spending, agriculture, parks or anything else Boehner wants to talk about — except Obamacare.
“We are locked in tight on Obamacare,” he said.
Reid dismissed the idea of a conference on a short-term CR once more.
“We have a debt ceiling staring us in the face,” he said in an exasperated voice.
Pelosi ran through the Democratic complaint that Republicans blocked a budget conference committee for six months — and noted that Democrats are willing to accept the Republican spending number of $986 billion to open the government.
“We have to find a path that they can go down,” Pelosi said, adding that she is “ever optimistic” given how much is at stake.
Reid, meanwhile, expressed worry that some Republicans were happy with a shutdown and the potential for a default to follow.
“I think that it looks like these people are headed where they want to go. Michele Bachmann says finally, finally we’re where we wanted to be, we’ve closed down the government. She’s not alone,” he said, referring to the Minnesota congresswoman.