The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

National and world

October 11, 2013

No word yet on GOP shutdown/debt plan

WASHINGTON — House Republicans are offering to pass legislation to avert a default and end the 11-day partial government shutdown as part of a framework that would include cuts in benefit programs, officials said Friday.

Republicans also seek changes in the three-year-old health care law known as Obamacare as part of an end to an impasse that has roiled financial markets and idled 350,000 federal workers.

President Barack Obama has insisted he will not negotiate with Republicans over federal spending — or anything else — until the government is reopened and the $16.7 debt limit raised to avert the possibility of default.

Yet, regarding benefit programs, Obama has previously backed an increase in Medicare costs for better-off seniors, among other items, and that idea also has appeal for Republicans.

The White House appeared briefly to wobble on the issue of negotiations on Thursday, until Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid emerged from a meeting with the president to reaffirm it emphatically.

The House Republicans' plan was outlined Thursday night in a White House meeting that included senior aides to Obama as well as to House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, several hours after Obama met with top Republicans.

Without confirming any of the details under discussion, Cantor said, "We're waiting to hear" from administration officials.

In addition to ending the shutdown and increasing the debt limit, under the proposal Congress and the White House would explore ways to ease across-the-board federal budget cuts that began taking effect a year ago, and replace at least part of them with benefit-program curbs that have been included in recent presidential budgets. Officials who described the approach did so on condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to discuss private conversations.

With the weekend approaching, and the deadline for raising the debt limit five days away, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said it was time to "put this hysterical talk of default behind us and instead start talking about finding solutions to the problems."

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