CAPITOL HILL — U.S. President Barack Obama is reaching out to members of Congress to try to resolve two budget crises, the partial government shutdown and a deadline next week to raise the debt ceiling or risk default.
Obama invited all House Democrats to the White House on Wednesday, in an effort to start a dialogue and end the political deadlock that caused large parts of the government to shut down nine days ago.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi emerged from the meeting, and said Democrats and House Republicans are still far apart on passing a “clean” bill without conditions to raise the debt ceiling before an October 17 deadline.
"And there is no concession on the debt ceiling. The debt ceiling needs to be lifted,” she said.
Republican House Speaker John Boehner is demanding that the president negotiate with Republicans over the debt ceiling, and has said there must be spending cuts.
The president invited all 232 House Republicans to come to the White House for talks on the budget crisis Thursday. But a spokesman for Boehner said only 18 Republican leaders will go, saying a smaller group is more likely to find a solution.
In a written statement, the White House said the president is disappointed that Boehner is preventing his members from coming to the White House. Obama has said he will negotiate with Republicans only after the government has been funded and the debt limit has been raised.
On Capitol Hill, frustration over the lack of progress has even affected Senate Chaplain Barry Black. On Wednesday, Black highlighted the plight of 26 families who have lost a loved one in the U.S. Armed Services since the shutdown began nine days ago.
“Lord, when our federal shutdown delays payments of death benefits to the families of children dying on faraway battlefields, it’s time for our lawmakers to say, ‘Enough is enough.’ Cover our shame," said Black.
The House of Representatives voted 425 to zero Wednesday to restore payments to the families of those who died in combat. The U.S. government typically pays $100,000 to the families of fallen service members within three days of their death, to cover funeral and travel expenses. The president has said he wants the benefits restored right away.
The Republican-led House has passed a number of measures to fund individual government programs or agencies, but the Democratic-led Senate is calling on the House to pass a "clean" bill without conditions to fund the entire federal government, and to pass a measure to raise the U.S. borrowing limit before funds are expected to run out on October 17.