WASHINGTON The White House Monday postponed a meeting between President Barack Obama and Congressional leaders to give Senate leaders "more time" to resolve a standoff over the nation's debt and the partial government shutdown.
Obama was scheduled to meet Monday afternoon at the White House with the Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and Senate.
The White House announced that Obama's 3 p.m. meeting with Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate "has been postponed to allow leaders in the Senate time to continue making important progress towards a solution that raises the debt limit and reopens the government."
A new date or time for the meeting wasn't announced.
The delay comes as all sides are expressing optimism that they are getting closer to an agreement to end the two-week partial shutdown and avert a potential default on the U.S. debt.
The last meeting between Obama and the congressional leaders was on Oct. 2
Senate leaders said earlier in the afternoon that they were "very optimistic" they can strike a deal to reopen the government and raise the government's borrowing limit before a Thursday deadline.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his GOP counterpart, Sen. Mitch McConnell, took to the Senate floor to say they are continuing the talks they began over the weekend and that they are making progress.
"I share his optimism we're going to get a result that will be acceptable to both sides," McConnell said though neither gave any details.
Obama was also cautiously optimistic earlier in the day, saying there had been "some progress" in the Senate toward reopening the government and avoiding default.
"But we'll see if the progress is real," the president told reporters during a lunchtime stop at Martha's Table, a food pantry in the district where some furloughed federal workers are helping out.
A bipartisan group of senators, led by Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, has been working on a plan to raise the $16.7 trillion borrowing limit and end the two-week-old shutdown while postponing an Obama C are tax and stiffening eligibility checks for the Affordable Care Act.
But the sticking point has been Democrats' insistence that the budget sequesters, which all sides agreed to in 2011, be undone by early next year.
Collins' proposal would have locked the sequesters in at least through March.
Obama said some Senate Republicans recognize "it's not tenable, it's not smart, it's not good for the American people to let America default."
But the president added, "If Republicans aren't willing to set aside their partisan concerns in order to do what's right for the country, we stand a good chance of defaulting, and defaulting could have a potentially devastating affect on our economy," reported Washington Times.
Pointing to the federal volunteers at the pantry, Obama said, "These are people who have not been paid, in some cases are very eager to be back on the job. Because of the politics, they're not able to do their jobs."
The administration says Congress must raise the debt limit by Thursday or the government will default on some of its bills. The government shutdown is heading into a third week, but negotiations broke down on Saturday with House Republicans and the focus has shifted to the Senate.
"The president continues to urge Congress to pass a bill that raises the debt ceiling and lends the certainty our businesses and the economy needs," the White House said.
One framework under consideration in the talks, according to a Senate source, was a deal that would fund federal agencies until Jan. 15 and raise the debt limit until Feb. 15, reports the Washington Post.
The proposal would meet a Democratic demand that budget talks take place before a new round of sequestration budget cuts takes effect in January. Not yet settled between the sides is whether it would address a controversial tax on medical devices that is part of the new health-care law.
Republicans are pushing for a delay or elimination of the tax, but Democrats have resisted, citing their long held position of not making concessions on ObamaCare in response to Republican demands while the government is shut down.
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Original headline: White House postpones Obama and Congress meeting over debt limit
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