Read as much as you want on BostonGlobe.com, anywhere and anytime, for just 99¢.

No accord yet on debt limit talks

Obama, GOP leaders call meeting productive, vow to continue discussion

House Speaker John Boehner offered a plan with a reprieve on the debt limit.

Win McNamee/Getty Images

House Speaker John Boehner offered a plan with a reprieve on the debt limit.

WASHINGTON — With nervous financial markets swinging on every shred of news from Congress, President Obama declined Thursday to embrace a plan by House Republicans to temporarily avoid the threat of a default next week on the nation’s debt.

Although the day began with the possibility that leaders would reach tentative agreement on the House proposal to raise the nation’s $16.7 trillion borrowing limit through Nov. 22, GOP lawmakers left a late-afternoon White House meeting with little more than pledges to continue talking.

Continue reading below

House Republicans who attended the White House meeting said Obama refused to sign on because he also wants a parallel plan to end the government shutdown, despite signals earlier Thursday that he would accept a debt bill alone.

Negotiations were expected to continue Thursday night, and House Republicans struck a positive note, as both sides called the meeting productive.

“Well, I think it’s clear that he would like to have the shutdown stopped,” said Representative Hal Rogers, a Kentucky Republican who chairs the appropriations committee.

Rogers said “we’re trying to find out what it is he would insist upon” in a bill to reopen shuttered government agencies, and “what we would insist upon.”

Senate majority leader Harry Reid took a hard line against the GOP proposal.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Senate majority leader Harry Reid took a hard line against the GOP proposal.

Negotiators are focused on two fiscal issues: the 11-day-old government shutdown and the looming debt limit, which expires Oct. 17.

The House proposal would provide a six-week reprieve on the debt limit, allowing for negotiations on a broader fiscal pact.

It offered a Band-Aid that would allow for talks on thorny budget and tax policy that have confounded Congress for several years.

Remaining unresolved in the House plan, however, is how to end the government shutdown.

Parks and federal offices would remain closed, as workers go without paychecks — prolonging a sense of crisis that polls show is generating increasing anger among voters.

Obama’s “goal remains to ensure we pay the bills we’ve incurred, reopen the government, and get back to the business of growing the economy, creating jobs, and strengthening the middle class,” the White House said in a statement following the meeting with House leaders.

The president’s desire for a short-term deal on both the shutdown and the debt could shift the focus onto an emerging proposal from Senate Republicans, who, recognizing the pitfalls of dealing with the debt-limit alone, began rallying around their own measure to handle both problems.

Leaders of both parties conceded short-term deals could merely extend the standoff, without a clear path to a longer-term agreement.

“Clearly you could end up back in the same place and you don’t want to be there,” Speaker John A. Boehner, a Republican, said during a press conference earlier Thursday.

But the delay in the debt ceiling deadline would give Republicans what they have been demanding all along: a chance to negotiate.

“I think the president wants to deal with America’s pressing problems just as much as we do,’’ Boehner said. “In order to deal with these pressing problems, we’ve got to sit down and have a conversation that leads to a negotiation.”

Republican House leaders have been trying to find a way out of the impasse that has so far yielded no political gains for the party, and has damaged the GOP’s standing in the polls.

With the shift to a focus on talks on the debt ceiling, Republicans are trying to persuade Democrats to accept concessions on larger budget issues, including deficit reduction, entitlement changes, and an overhaul of the nation’s tax code.

Talk of rolling back Obama’s health care plan — which was the quest that led House Republicans to force a government shutdown Oct. 1 — have receded.

Republican House leaders have been trying to find a way out of the impasse that has so far yielded no political gains for the party, and has damaged the GOP’s standing in the polls.

Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew warned lawmakers again Thursday that a failure to raise the debt limit by Oct. 17 could pose dire consequences that could not be put off.

Earlier in the day, the White House had seemed receptive, albeit reluctantly, to a bill that would only avert a debt default, without reopening the government.

“They ought to do it for longer than a few weeks,” said Obama’s press secretary, Jay Carney. “But if a clean debt limit bill is passed, he would likely sign it.”

But opposition from Senate Democrats, who came to the White House before House Republicans, may have pushed Obama to resist a plan that does not open the government.

Senate majority leader Harry Reid, the Democrat who has taken the hardest line during the standoff, has insisted that he will not negotiate with Republicans until they open the government and raise the debt limit.

On his way out of the White House, he was asked again whether he would negotiate with Republicans before the government reopens. “Not going to happen,” he said.

The bill allowing a short-term increase in the debt ceiling would compel the House and Senate to form a bipartisan budget committee, though it would not require direct participation from Obama.

“We haven’t changed our position,” said Representative John Fleming, a conservative Louisiana Republican. “Only the timeline.”

Boehner seemed concerned enough with the threat of default to attempt a deal before the long Columbus Day weekend begins and the risk of a major financial market sell-off grows.

The GOP’s Wall Street and business backers have put heavy pressure on the party to relent from the threat of default, even if some Republican lawmakers have accused economists of exaggerating the threat.

News of a potential deal gave a big boost to stocks, with the Dow Jones industrial average gaining 323 points Thursday, its best day since January.

House Republicans who emerged from a closed-door meeting with Boehner Thursday morning said they wanted to preserve their ability to negotiate over the budget without an immediate threat of default.

“The speaker has it right in terms of saying we’ve got to look at this as a country and work together on this,” said Timothy F. Murphy, a Pennsylvania Republican. “There will always be some outliers on the far left and the far right, the fighting fringes.”

A Tea Party-backed lawmaker, Republican Representative Steven A. King of Iowa, said he was “not very enthusiastic” about the latest plan. Some other conservatives were noncommittal.

“Most of the people in this caucus rely heavily on input from their own districts, so I think that’s what you’re going to see,” said Representative Raul R. Labrador, an Idaho Republican.

Though Democrats might be compelled to accept a temporary a debt deal, they were not enthusiastic.

“This is not what we should be doing,” said Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, a Democrat from Maryland. “We should be taking the debt ceiling off the table completely. We should be taking shutdown of government off the table completely. And we should sit down and put everything on the table and negotiate.”

“But if we can’t get that, then if they do a shorter term, I think it’s something that we have to take,” Cardin said.

Obama also has been under pressure to end the impasse, which is having ripple effects on the economy and for hundreds of thousands of employees and families that rely on government benefits.

Thursday, after a wave of negative news coverage, Obama signed a bill to provide bereavement benefits for survivors of military personnel killed in the line of duty.

Washington has a poor track record in using temporary fixes to solve longer-term problems. Just two years ago, to resolve a similar standoff on the debt ceiling, Congress and Obama agreed to the Budget Control Act, which raised the debt ceiling and established a special committee to determine how to reduce the debt by $1.2 trillion.

The committee failed.

Noah Bierman can be reached at noah.bierman@globe.com.
Loading comments...

You have reached the limit of 10 free articles in a month

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week