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White House meeting postponed; ‘optimistic’ senators given more time to cut shutdown deal

- The Washington Times - Monday, October 14, 2013

The White House abruptly postponed a scheduled meeting Monday afternoon with congressional leaders and President Obama "to allow leaders in the Senate time to continue making important progress towards a solution that raises the debt limit and reopens the government."

Senate leaders said earlier in the afternoon they were "very optimistic" they can strike a deal to reopen the government and raise the government's borrowing limit before a Thursday deadline.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his GOP counterpart, Sen. Mitch McConnell, took to the Senate floor to say they are continuing the talks they began over the weekend and that they are making progress.

"I share his optimism we're going to get a result that will be acceptable to both sides," Mr. McConnell said — though neither man said anything about details.

Mr. Obama was also cautiously optimistic earlier in the day, saying there had been "some progress" in the Senate toward reopening the government and avoiding default.

"But we'll see if the progress is real," the president told reporters during a lunchtime stop at Martha's Table, a food pantry in the district where some furloughed federal workers are helping out.

A bipartisan group of senators, led by Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, has been working on a plan to raise the $16.7 trillion borrowing limit and end the two-week-old shutdown while postponing an Obamacare tax and stiffening eligibility checks for the Affordable Care Act.

But the sticking point has been Democrats' insistence that the budget sequesters, which all sides agreed to in 2011, be undone by early next year.

Ms. Collins' proposal would have locked the sequesters in at least through March.

Mr. Obama said some Senate Republicans recognize "it's not tenable, it's not smart, it's not good for the American people to let America default."

But the president added, "If Republicans aren't willing to set aside their partisan concerns in order to do what's right for the country, we stand a good chance of defaulting, and defaulting could have a potentially have a devastating affect on our economy."

Pointing to the federal volunteers at the pantry, Mr. Obama said, "These are people who have not been paid, in some cases are very eager to be back on the job. Because of the politics, they're not able to do their jobs."

The administration says Congress must raise the debt limit by Thursday or the government will default on some of its bills. The government shutdown is heading into a third week, but negotiations broke down on Saturday with House Republicans and the focus has shifted to the Senate.

"The president continues to urge Congress to pass a bill that raises the debt ceiling and lends the certainty our businesses and the economy needs," the White House said.

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