After the hour-long meeting with House Democrats, the White House said Obama thanked them for supporting a clean, short-term spending bill “that would reopen the government and end the unnecessary pain this shutdown is causing families across the country.” It said the president and the lawmakers “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.”
The statement from press secretary Jay Carney said Obama “discussed his desire, once the threat of default is removed and the government is reopened, to engage with both sides on a discussion of how we achieve a broader budget agreement.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters after the meeting that Democrats support a short-term continuing resolution spending bill that would immediately reopen the government and then begin longer-term budget negotiations.
But asked whether Democrats would support a short-term debt ceiling increase, Pelosi said they would vote for any increase at all to avoid default but that a longer increase is necessary.
“I don’t think it’s a responsible place to go,” Pelosi said of a short-term debt ceiling deal. “I would hope that our colleagues would not do that.”
Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said that in the meeting Obama told lawmakers “he is willing to negotiate anything and everything,” but only after “the government reopens, people get back to work and when Congress pays its own bills.”
The meetings come as Republicans are accusing Obama of not negotiating with them over the budget and debt-ceiling impasse. On Tuesday, Obama and House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) clashed publicly, and no progress was made on how to reopen the government and pay the nation’s bills.
[Read the latest updates on the shutdown.]
Obama was particularly unhappy to learn of one consequence of the shutdown: the Defense Department’s inability to pay death benefits to the families of troops killed in the line of duty. Carney told reporters Wednesday that the Pentagon had informed Congress of that consequence before the shutdown but that it was not specifically addressed in legislation to ensure the continuity of military pay. Obama ordered the Office of Management and Budget and White House lawyers to find a solution, and he “expects this to be fixed today,” Carney said.