U.S. President Barack Obama and Republican congressional leaders are expected to meet on Friday to continue talks regarding the federal budget in hopes of ending the partial government shutdown and preventing the country from defaulting on its debt.
Friday’s talks come as the shutdown enters its 11th day and with next week’s deadline for raising the debt ceiling fast approaching.
Meanwhile, the political impact of the shutdown on the U.S. political landscape was illustrated Thursday by a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll of 800 people. It indicated that 53 percent of respondents blame the shutdown on Republicans while 31 percent blame it on Democrats.
On Thursday, President Obama held separate meetings with top congressional Democrats and Republicans.
Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner’s office called the talks useful and productive, and said meetings at the staff level would continue throughout the night.
Earlier Thursday, House Republicans offered a six-week increase in the debt limit.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said the president is encouraged that, in Carney’s words, “cooler heads seem to be prevailing in the House.” The president has said letting the United States default on its debts would be a catastrophe for the global economy.
News of a possible debt ceiling deal sent U.S. markets soaring. The three major stock indexes rose more than 2 percent Thursday.
Boehner has been insisting on linking negotiations on spending cuts to any bill raising the debt ceiling. He also has demanded talks on the president’s health care program before letting the House vote on reopening the government.
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid says there will be no negotiations until the government is reopened. He says the nearly two-week-old shutdown has caused pain and suffering across the country.
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew told a Senate panel that it would be a “grave mistake” to not increase the debt ceiling by the October 17 deadline. He said the Treasury would then only have about $30 billion on hand and some incoming revenue, but not enough to pay all its bills.
Lew said the government should not have to choose between paying government bond holders or paying pensions and health benefits owed to older Americans.