WASHINGTON — Top congressional leaders met Wednesday evening with President Barack Obama at the White House, and emerged after 80 minutes with no deal but plenty of invective.
Obama was “strong, strong, strong” in rejecting changes to the Obamacare law, said Sen. Harry Reid, the Democrats’ leader in the Senate.
Republicans are “willing to bring the country to the brink of financial disaster,” he said. Democrats have offered a reasonable deal, without any changes to Obamacare, so “what the speaker has to accept is ‘yes’ for an answer,” he said.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the Democrats’ leader in the House, said she could only assume that Republicans “wanted to shut down the government,” even after Democrats unhappily accepted a lower spending level for 2014.
After the event, Obama’s press secretary reiterated Obama’s demand that the the GOP drop its proposed reforms to the Obamacare regulation of the nation’s health-sector.
“The president made clear to the Leaders that he is not going to negotiate over the need for Congress to act to reopen the government or to raise the debt limit to pay the bills Congress has already incurred,” said the statement.
The Democrats’ language reflects their confidence that the government’s partial shutdown will spur public protests, split the GOP caucus, force it to give up its demands for Obamacare reforms and weaken it prior to the 2014 elections.
So far, the available polls have shown little only a modest trend toward the Democrats.
Gallup, for example, still shows the president with an approval rate of 45 percent, and a disapproval rating of 48 percent.
GOP leader John Boehner adopted a more modest tone in the press conference after the meeting, decrying the Democrats’ stonewalling tactics.
Democrats, including Obama, “will not negotiate,” he said when he emerged from the White House.
“We had a nice conversation … but at some point we’ve got to allow the process that our founders gave us to work out,” he said.
Democrats should “listen to the American people and sit down and have a serious discussion about resolving these differences,” Boehner said, before walking away from the reporters’ shouted questions.
Since last week, Obama and his Senate allies have rejected all of the House GOP’s government funding bills because they are packaged with a series of GOP-backed reforms to Obama’s signature expansion of government power.
“We are locked in tight on Obamacare,” Reid told reporters outside the White House.
However, the Obamacare program has been changed numerous times of by Obama deputies, and he has signed several bills revamping parts of the vast and expensive project, which gives government the leading role in the nation’s health sector.
On Wednesday, Boehner and his GOP legislators pushed through another set of spending bills that would fund high-profile government programs, including the National Institutes of Health, the National Park Service and the budget for the District of Columbia.
Obama’s deputies have said he will veto those funding bills unless the GOP agrees to fund all of government and also drop its Obamacare reforms.