With much of the federal government paralyzed for a second day, President Obama will meet with congressional leaders today in search of a way to end the government shutdown and increase the debt ceiling.
The talks will mark the first time Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., have convened with Obama in person on such issues.
It’s unclear whether the meeting signals that both sides are ready to negotiate. Obama intends to reiterate his position that Republicans pass a “clean” spending bill, according to the White House, and Republicans also signaled that they want Democrats to give in on some of their demands.
The meeting would be meaningless if Democrats are still unwilling to negotiate, Republican leaders in both the House and Senate suggested.
“Just yesterday, the president reaffirmed that he would not negotiate with Congress, and Senate Democrats actually voted not to negotiate,” McConnell said through a spokesman. “So frankly, we’re a little confused as to the purpose of this meeting.”
The meeting comes as congressional Republicans are increasingly under pressure today to either hold their ground or take an escape hatch offered to them by Democrats and a small but growing number of moderate Republicans who seek to end the unpopular shutdown.
To do so would require the House to abandon its efforts to alter the Affordable Care Act, and instead pass a so-called “clean” funding bill that the Senate and President Obama could accept.
“I’m concerned about those that are on furlough right now,” Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., told ABC News. “I know what it’s like to make $30,000 a year and barely be able to pay your rent.
“My heart goes out to those people and that’s why I will do whatever I have to do to fund the government, to get this shutdown over.”