More Meetings But No Deal Yet On Debt Ceiling, Shutdown

President Obama met this afternoon with Senate Republicans. There's no agreement yet but the parties appear to be working towards a deal to raise the federal debt limit and re-open the government.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block. President Obama and members of Congress have spent the last few days talking to each other, rather than at each other, and that's a refreshing change. While there's no breakthrough to report on efforts to reopen the government and avert a potential default, there are some encouraging signs.

In a moment, we'll hash through the politics with E.J. Dionne and David Brooks. NPR's Scott Horsley begins our coverage.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: President Obama hosted Senate Republicans at the White House this afternoon. They talked for about 90 minutes. And afterwards, Ohio Senator Rob Portman said the conversation was cordial.

SENATOR ROB PORTMAN: We didn't agree on everything, of course, but the president was willing to listen to our ideas and willing to say that he would engage.

HORSLEY: That engagement began yesterday, after House Republicans offered a temporary hike in the government's debt ceiling to buy time and lift the threat of a government default. White House spokesman Jay Carney says the president appreciates that constructive approach but he also worries that a short-term extension would leave the country in the same precarious position just six weeks from now, in time for Thanksgiving and the important holiday shopping season.

JAY CARNEY: It is the right thing to do to remove that gun from the table, the negotiating table, ensure that the debt ceiling is raised for as long a duration as possible so no one's tempted to use the threat of default as a means of extracting political concessions.

HORSLEY: The original House plan also did nothing to end the government shutdown. Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine wants to tackle both problems.

SENATOR SUSAN COLLINS: I really would like to see us act this weekend. The longer this goes on unresolved, the worse it is. And there's really no need for it to continue in an unresolved manner.

HORSLEY: Collins has been working on a proposal to reopen the government in exchange for modest adjustments to the healthcare law.

Aides to lawmakers and the president worked late last night trying to come to terms. In a possible sign of progress, Republican Congressman Paul Ryan skipped a scheduled appearance before a crowd of social conservatives this afternoon. Ryan, who chairs the House Budget Committee, sent along a video message instead.

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN: Things are a little busy up here in Capitol Hill these days. My colleagues and I, well, we're working to get a budget agreement. It's been slow going, but I want to make the most of this moment. We have an opportunity here to pay down our national debt and jumpstart our economy.

HORSLEY: The conservative audience gave a rousing welcome to Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who led the push for the government shutdown in hopes of overturning the president's healthcare law. In his video message, though, Ryan seemed to be preparing conservatives that they'll have to settle for less.

RYAN: Now, this president, he won't agree to everything that we need to do. A budget agreement with this president and this Senate, it won't solve all of our problems, but I hope it's a start. I hope we can get a down payment on our debt.

HORSLEY: House Republicans are scheduled to meet tomorrow morning to discuss their next move. Both the Republican speaker and the president agreed to keep talking. Scott Horsley, NPR News, Washington.

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