Washington (AFP) – President Barack Obama confronts Republican leaders Thursday, just one week before a toxic political stalemate could take an even more extreme turn and degenerate into a historic debt default crisis.
House Republican chieftains, including Speaker John Boehner, will join Obama at the White House, with neither side yet apparently ready to concede ground in a standoff over a government shutdown and raising America’s borrowing authority.
Various scenarios for an exit to the showdown — including a short-term government funding bill and a temporary debt ceiling rise — are being floated in Washington, but have yet to develop into a workable exit strategy.
In a sign of the mistrust between the White House and Republicans, the two sides could not even agree on the guest list for the talks in the White House’s Roosevelt Room.
Obama invited every Republican House member to the session, part of series of chats with every member of both parties in each chamber of Congress.
But Republicans, charging that Obama had no intention of serious negotiations, said only party leaders, and not the rank and file of their restive caucus, would show up at the White House.
Washington is lurching ever closer to an October 17 deadline to raise the U.S. government’s statutory borrowing limit of $16.7 trillion. Failure to do so could see the country default on its obligations for the first time in history.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) warned Wednesday that a default could throw most of the world’s major economies “back into recession next year” and badly damage emerging nations.
The US government goes into the 10th day of a partial shutdown Thursday, after Congress failed to agree on a budget to finance operations by an October 1 deadline.
Warning he would not be held to ransom, Obama has said he will refuse to negotiate with Republicans on long-term budget issues until the debt limit is lifted and the government reopened.
“You can’t threaten to shut down the government as a means of getting leverage in negotiations,” Obama told a CBS television affiliate from Virginia, in a series of local television interviews.
Boehner, however, has vowed not to budge until Obama offers concessions.
While both sides are locked into their positions, and no in-depth negotiations are taking place, there were some signs of political maneuvering that could indicate key players are looking for an endgame.