Obama, Boehner in shutdown ‘he said, he said’

Olivier Knox
Chief Washington Correspondent
Yahoo News
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio prepares leave following a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013, as the partial government shutdown enters its second week with no end in sight. Democrats controlling the Senate plan to move quickly toward a vote to allow the government to borrow more money, challenging Republicans to a filibuster showdown as the time remaining to stop a first-ever default on U.S. obligations ticks by. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

President Barack Obama and Republican House Speaker John Boehner can't even agree on how to describe their private conversations as the government shutdown enters its second week and a first-ever U.S. default looms.

Obama telephoned Boehner on Tuesday around 10:45 a.m. — and that’s pretty much where the agreement ends.

Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck tersely described the call this way: “The president called the speaker again today to reiterate that he won't negotiate on a government funding bill or debt limit increase." (Buck’s message was helpfully entitled “news ... or what passes for it.”)

Obama has said he’s open to negotiate with Republicans — but only after Congress passes a short-term spending bill that reopens government and passes an increase in the country’s debt limit, both “clean” of any GOP demands. And he’s repeatedly said he won’t negotiate until that work is done.

The White House emphasized the first part of the president’s position.

Obama told Boehner that he “is willing to negotiate with Republicans — after the threat of government shutdown and default have been removed — over policies that Republicans think would strengthen the country.”

Such talks could include steps to “strengthen the Affordable Care Act,” the landmark health care overhaul better known as “Obamacare,” the White House said.

Obama also pushed Boehner to hold a House vote on a Senate-passed “clean” spending bill to reopen the government and one on a measure “to raise the debt limit with no ideological strings attached.

The Treasury Department estimates that the federal government will hit the debt ceiling on Oct. 17 — after which it will not be allowed to borrow funds necessary to pay its existing bills. Officials estimate that there could be a brief period before a first-of-its-kind default on Washington’s obligations, which economists predict would rock the fragile global economy.

The government partly closed last week after House Republicans sought to use must-pass spending legislation to roll back the president's health care overhaul. The White House — aided by united Senate Democrats — refused.

Interestingly, neither camp described Boehner's side of the conversation.