POLITICS

Government shutdown 2013: Obama meets with GOP senators Friday

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WASHINGTON (AP) - Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell says GOP lawmakers are working on trying to come up with a bipartisan solution to the budget stalemate.

Returning from a two-hour meeting at the White House, McConnell told reporters Friday that the session with President Barack Obama was useful and he hoped that Senate Republicans could find a way out of the impasse.

Senate Republicans have had several private discussions on how to end the partial government shutdown, now in its 11th day, and avert a catastrophic economic default.

Obama held discussions with Senate Republicans at the White House Friday morning.

While much of the attention has been focused on the House in recent days, McConnell and other Republicans have been exploring possible legislation to avert the default and end the shutdown and to require the White House to make relatively modest concessions on the health care law. Among the possibilities is a repeal of a medical device tax in the law, or perhaps stronger income verification requirements for individuals who receive federal subsidies to purchase coverage.

Determined to resolve the twin crises, the Republicans have reached out to senior Democrats, including New York Sen. Chuck Schumer.

Senate Majority Leader Reid rejected the notion of a six-week increase in the nation's borrowing authority, pressing not only for a longer, 15-month measure but a reopening of the government.

Thursday's talks were held shortly before a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll was released bearing ominous news for the GOP. It showed more people blaming Republicans than Obama for the shutdown, 53 percent to 31 percent. Just 24 percent viewed the GOP positively, compared with 39 percent with positive views of the Democratic Party.

Boehner, R-Ohio, brought a proposal to Thursday's White House meeting to extend federal borrowing authority through Nov. 22, conditioned on Obama's agreeing to negotiate over spending cuts and the government shutdown. But participants said the discussion expanded to ways to quickly end the shutdown, which entered its 11th day Friday.

"It's clear he'd like to have the shutdown stopped," House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., said of Obama. "And we're trying to find out what he would insist upon" to reopen the government "and what we would insist upon."

One major problem for Boehner's plan was highlighted by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. After he and fellow Senate Democrats had their own White House meeting with Obama, Reid said negotiations before the government reopens - a key part of Boehner's proposal - were "not going to happen."

The shutdown has idled 350,000 civil servants, prevented the Social Security Administration from revealing next year's cost-of-living increase for recipients and curtailed many consumer safety inspections. Officials warn of deeper cutbacks in services if it goes on.

The Obama administration has warned that the government will exhaust its borrowing authority on Oct. 17 and risk being unable to pay its bills and facing default.

"It would be a grave mistake" to ignore the risks to the U.S. and world economy that a default would raise, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew warned the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday.

House Republicans' insistence on spending cuts and deficit reduction come with the 2013 budget shortfall expected to drop below $700 billion after four years exceeding $1 trillion annually.

But their insistence on cuts in the health care law as the price for reopening government has frustrated many Senate Republicans, who see that battle as unwinnable.

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