The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — With time running short, President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans accelerated efforts Friday to prevent the U.S. Treasury from default and end a partial government shutdown that stretched into an 11th day. The latest impacts: New aircraft grounded, military chaplains silenced and a crab harvest jeopardized in the Bering Sea.
"Let's put this hysterical talk of default behind us and instead start talking about finding solutions," said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
Republicans in the House and Senate separately made proposals to the White House for ending an impasse that polls say has inflicted damage on their party politically.
Each offered to reopen the government and raise the $16.7 trillion debt limit — but only as part of broader approaches that envision deficit savings, changes to the health care law known as Obamacare and an easing of across-the-board spending cuts that the White House and Congress both dislike. The details and timing differed.
"We're waiting to hear" from administration officials, said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
But as the day wore on, the White House politely turned the proposal aside in favor of talks around a more streamlined approach under discussion in the Senate.
Hopes remained high on Wall Street, where investors sent the Dow Jones industrial average 111 points higher following Thursday's 323-point surge. Obama met at the White House with small business owners about the impacts they were feeling from the budget battles, and said he hoped to be able to bring them toward a conclusion, said Det Ansinn, who attended the session.
"He was a little slightly melancholy that maybe it could be done over the weekend and maybe not. He's been down this road before," said Ansinn, owner of Doylestown, Pa.-based mobile and Web app developer Brick Simple. Ansinn said he told the president how the shutdown is threating to delay some of his projects and he fears what a possible impending government default could do to the economy.
In meetings with lawmakers over two days, Obama left open the possibility he would sign legislation repealing a medical device tax enacted as part of the health care law. Yet there was no indication he was willing to do so with a default looming and the government partially closed.
Obama called House Speaker John Boehner at midafternoon, and Michael Steel, a spokesman for the leader of House Republicans, said, "They agreed that we should all keep talking."
Jay Carney, the president's press secretary, said Obama "appreciates the constructive nature of the conversation and the proposal that House Republicans put forward. Yet, the spokesman said, "He has some concerns with it."
In Congress, the man certain to be involved in any final agreement, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, gave no indication of his plans.
While the impact of the shutdown varies widely, lawmakers seemed to be taking care of their own needs.
The members-only House gym remained in operation, and enough Senate staff was at work to operate the aging underground tram that ferries senators and others from the Russell Office Building to the Capitol a short distance away.
The shutdown sent ripples nationwide.
The aerospace industry reported that furloughs at the Federal Aviation Administration have resulted in a virtual stop to certification of new aircraft, equipment and training simulators.
The Senate passed legislation instructing the Pentagon to permit military chaplains to conduct worship services. House approval was still needed.
And Keith Colburn, a crab fisherman, told lawmakers during the day that a lucrative, one-month crab harvest set to begin Tuesday in the Bering Sea is in jeopardy because the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is not assigning quotas to boats.
Obama met at the White House for more than an hour with Senate Republicans, the last in a series of four presidential sit-downs with the rank and file of each house and each party.
He has said repeatedly in recent weeks that he is willing to negotiate with Republicans on budget, health care or other issues, but only after the government is reopened and the threat of default eliminated.
The White House seemed to wobble on that point on Thursday, until Reid emphatically reinforced that it was his view, too.
Republicans have just as insistently demanded that Obama negotiate with them in exchange for passage of legislation that both sides agree is essential.
That left the White House and congressional leaders looking for a way to negotiate their way out of an impasse without appearing to negotiate — with the health of the nation's economy dependent on their political dexterity. The administration says the government will bump up against its borrowing limit next Thursday, raising the specter of an unprecedented default.