WASHINGTON — House Republicans on Thursday offered President Barack Obama a short-term increase in the nation's debt limit as a way to open broader budget talks, and both sides began working on a way to reopen the government.
A late-afternoon meeting at the White House between the president and a group of House Republicans apparently led to the first major crack in the hardened positions each side has taken during the ten-day shutdown.
Rep. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, who was one of about 20 House Republicans who met with the president, said in an interview, “We are talking.”
“He's not saying yes. We're not saying yes. But we're not saying no either.”
Lankford declined to disclose details of the talks, but he said talks would continue into the night and that the goal was to reopen the government, temporarily lift the debt ceiling and begin broad negotiations on the budget.
“We started a real conversation that could lead to real negotiations to get this resolved,” he said.
Lankford said Vice President Joe Biden and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew also were present at the 90-minute meeting in the Roosevelt Room.
The White House released a statement after the meeting saying, “After a discussion about potential paths forward, no specific determination was made. The President looks forward to making continued progress with members on both sides of the aisle.”
Obama has insisted that he was willing to negotiate on a wide range of issues but not with the government shutdown and a debt ceiling crisis hanging over the nation.
House Republicans have demanded changes in the Affordable Care Act before funding the federal government. However, they came out of a morning meeting with an offer to raise the debt limit for six weeks in return for an agreement from the White House to bargain on the budget.
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, said Thursday there was “a potential for progress” after days of harsh accusations and name-calling in the nation's capital.