The top four leaders of the House of Representatives met behind closed doors in the Speaker’s office today to discuss the shutdown showdown, which has dragged into its ninth day.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says House Speaker John Boehner asked for the meeting, which began around 11:15 a.m. and ended about 40 minutes later.
A top GOP leadership aide says Boehner invited Majority Leader Eric Cantor to join the meeting, and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer also accompanied Pelosi, placing the House’s top echelon of leadership together behind closed doors for the first time since the shutdown began Oct. 1.
Oddly, Republicans said it was Pelosi who had requested the meeting, which seems to have been unproductive.
“Reps. Pelosi and Hoyer asked for the meeting, and as we’ve stated publicly, we’re willing to meet with any Democratic leader who is willing to talk,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel told ABC News.
Still, spokespersons for each leader would not reveal many details about the meeting, but Pelosi released a statement indicating it did not move either side closer to ending the shutdown stalemate.
“Yesterday when I was asked by the Speaker to meet today, I was hopeful he was going to offer a proposal that would allow us to re-open government, avert a default that would harm the full faith and credit of the United States, and take us to the budget conference table,” Pelosi, D-Calif., wrote in a statement after the meeting. “Whip Hoyer and I reiterated that there are 200 Democratic votes to accept the Republican budget number of $986 billion to re-open government, and that we would agree to smooth the path to a budget conference. We were disappointed the Speaker did not take ‘yes’ for an answer.”
After the huddle concluded, House Speaker John Boehner went to the House floor to rip into Obamacare.
“Our message in the House has been pretty clear. We want to reopen our government and provide fairness for all Americans under the president’s health care law,” Boehner said during his floor speech. “What a train wreck. How can we tax people for not buying a product from a website that doesn’t work? How can we give big business a tax break and leave hardworking families out in the cold? This is why we need to sit down and have a conversation about the big challenges that face our country.”
Cantor’s Deputy Chief of Staff Doug Heye indicated the meeting was a positive development, commenting that “Leader Cantor wishes that [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid would follow the lead of his House colleagues and engage in bipartisan discussions.”
At 4:30 p.m. this afternoon, the entire House Democratic Caucus is invited to the White House to meet with President Obama to discuss the shutdown.
A smaller team of Republicans is poised to meet with the president on Thursday, after Speaker Boehner rejected the president’s invitation for the entire House Republican Conference.
“Nine days into a government shutdown and a week away from breaching the debt ceiling, a meeting is only worthwhile if it is focused on finding a solution. That’s why the House Republican Conference will instead be represented by a smaller group of negotiators, including the elected leadership and certain committee chairmen,” Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said. “It is our hope that this will be a constructive meeting and that the president finally recognizes Americans expect their leaders to be able to sit down and resolve their differences.”