President Obama walks to the Oval Office on Oct.14. Obama was to meet Republican and Democratic congressional leaders Monday at the White House, stepping up efforts to reach a deal to head off a historic debt default. (Saul Loeb / Getty Images)
President Obama prepared to meet Monday with congressional leaders, as the Senate’s top Democrat said lawmakers are close to a deal that could avert a government default later this week.
Obama, visiting a food bank in Washington, D.C., told reporters that if congressional Republicans don’t agree to an increase in the debt ceiling by Thursday, “we stand a good chance of defaulting.”
At 3 p.m., Obama meets with bipartisan congressional leaders: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada; Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio; and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Cal. Vice President Biden will also attend the session.
Reid and McConnell, the Senate’s top Republican, began talks over the weekend on agreement that would lift the $16.7 trillion budget ceiling before the government hits it on Thursday. The deal could also end the partial government shutdown, now in its 14th day.
On Capitol Hill, Reid told reporters that “we’re getting close” to an agreement.
Reid met privately Monday morning with McConnell, ahead of the White House meeting. Reid has been optimistic that he and McConnell can reach an agreement to end the shutdown and avoid default.
An agreement by the Democratic-run Senate must also be approved by the Republican-run House.
House Republicans ceded negotiations to Senate leaders after Obama rejected Boehner’s most recent offer to raise the debt ceiling for six weeks.
A key issue in the current talks is whether the agreement will affect unpopular, across-the-board cuts known as the sequester. Democrats would like to turn off the cuts for at least two years in exchange for other spending reforms, but Republicans want to maintain the stricter spending limits.
House Republicans are scheduled to meet Tuesday morning to discuss the latest negotiations.
The House and Senate return Monday to confront a government shutdown, now in its 14th day, and just three days to reach a deal or risk the first-ever U.S. default.
Obama warmed up for the debt default meeting by visiting Martha’s Table, which serves low income families in Washington, D.C. Obama plans to speak with furloughed federal workers who have volunteered at the food bank.
Jackson and Davis write for USA Today. Contributing: The Associated Press