WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans spent Friday seeking an agreement to reopen the government and raise the nation's debt limit, but the White House balked at the idea of a short-term deal that could lead to another crisis around Thanksgiving.
“We're obviously in a better place than we were a few days ago ... but there's not an agreement,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
Carney said the president hasn't changed his position that he won't negotiate over budget issues if Republicans are using default on the nation's debt as a “weapon.” If the government is reopened and the debt limit lifted, the president would engage in broad budget talks, Carney said.
The president spoke by telephone to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, on Friday afternoon and the two men agreed to keep talking, spokesmen for both said.
House Republicans on Thursday offered the president a six-week increase in the nation's borrowing authority so budget talks could begin but Obama didn't accept it. Carney said Friday that a six-week increase tied to budget negotiations “would put us right back where we are today” at Thanksgiving and the beginning of the Christmas shopping season.
That kind of uncertainty would damage businesses at a critical time, he said.
“What we are looking for is a way for Congress to reopen the government and remove the threat of default from this whole process,” he said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., also criticized the idea of a short-term increase in the debt limit.
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has said that the government will not have enough money on hand Thursday to meet its obligations. The administration and some lawmakers have warned that breaching the debt limit would lead to economic calamity.
Coburn on meeting
The president met at the White House on Friday with Senate Republicans, who are in the minority in the Senate and have been largely on the sidelines during the 11-day partial shutdown of the federal government.
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, described the meeting as “very civil” but mostly unproductive.
“(Obama) didn't tell us what he wants” in a deal, Coburn said. “He told us what he wouldn't do.”
Some Senate Republicans offered to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling for several months in exchange for repealing the tax on medical devices that was part of the Affordable Care Act.
Coburn said Obama shouldn't have to negotiate with two different groups and that House Republicans should take the lead “since they're in control.” He also said Republicans shouldn't agree to raise the debt limit without something in return.
“That's the only leverage we've got,” he said. “I don't think we should give that up.”
Coburn has downplayed the impact of breaching the debt limit and has argued that the government could pay bills for some time with the money that comes in each day.
But Reid said Friday that defaulting on the debt would “spark a global recession.”