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GOP Offers Debt Ceiling Deal; White House Says 'It's Encouraging'

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio speaks to reporters following a meeting of House Republicans, Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Boehner said Republicans will advance legislation to temporarily extend the government's ability to borrow to meet its obligations. 
(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio speaks to reporters following a meeting of House Republicans, Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Boehner said Republicans will advance legislation to temporarily extend the government's ability to borrow to meet its obligations. 

House Speaker John Boehner says he and fellow Republicans are willing to compromise and pass a temporary extension of the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling in exchange for substantive negotiations on other fiscal matters. But their proposal would not affect the partial government shutdown.

"What we want to do is offer the president today the ability to move a temporary increase in the debt ceiling in agreement to go to conference on the budget," Boehner said, standing behind a lectern labeled with the Twitter hashtag #time4solutions.

He added that he hoped the White House would accept a "good faith effort" to resolve their differences.

The plan calls for a six-week extension that, if implemented, would remove the immediate threat to financial markets. But the deal has nothing to do with a temporary spending measure, known as a continuing resolution, that would restart the federal government, which has been partially shut down since last week.

NPR's Tamara Keith says the proposal for a short-term deal on the debt ceiling is only because "House Republicans want to continue to have urgency in the discussions."

"They don't want this to drag on for six weeks and then have to have another extension," she says. "They really want, they say, to get to some sort of a deal — some sort of a grand bargain, not-so-grand bargain, something that deals with more than just the budget."

The news conference followed a morning gathering of the House Republican caucus and came just ahead of an anticipated noon ET meeting between key House GOP lawmakers and President Obama at the White House.

The White House and Democrats had wanted a "clean" resolution to restore funding to government operations and raise the debt ceiling, but a substantial bloc of conservative Republicans in the House have insisted that such a temporary spending measure be tied to defunding and/or delaying the Affordable Care Act.

The deal outlined by Republicans is similar to one detailed on Wednesday by Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, in an op-ed published in The Wall Street Journal. In it, Ryan calls for talks with the president and congressional Democrats on Social Security and Medicare reform, and simplifying the tax code.

Asked what it would take for Republicans to end the government shutdown, Boehner said, "That's why we're going to talk to the president."

He added: "I don't want to put anything on the table or take anything off the table."

Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California told CNN shortly before the announcement that "a short-term deal may just land us right back to where we are two months from now."

"If push comes to shove and it's either default or a short-term deal, it's very difficult to choose default," Schiff said.

In testimony earlier Thursday before the Senate Finance Committee, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew warned of catastrophic consequences if the debt ceiling isn't raised before Oct. 17 and the U.S. is unable to pay its bills on time.

Update at 3:51 p.m. ET. 'Not Gonna Happen':

While today's proposal was said to be "encouraging" by the White House, when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid emerged from his meeting with Obama, the mood seemed starkly different.

He was asked by a reporter if Democrats would sit down with Republicans, while the government was still shut down.

"Not gonna happen," Reid said, bluntly.

In other words, Democrats are sticking to their bottom line: that they will not negotiate with Republicans until Republicans agree to raise the debt ceiling — even if for a short time — and agree to pass a clean continuing resolution that opens up the government without any language on the Affordable Care Act.

Update At 1:05 p.m. ET. White House Calls Proposal 'An Encouraging Sign'

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Thursday that the president was "happy" that Republicans had offered something but "we don't know" what Boehner can get passed.

"Cooler heads seem to be prevailing," he said.

"It would be far better if we stop playing this periodic brinksmanship," Carney said.

"It's an encouraging sign ... that they're not listening to the default deniers," he said.

"We'll see what they are able to pass," Carney said.

He said trying to tie government funding and raising the debt ceiling to the repeal of Obamacare was "a fool's errand, and the people who are paying are hard-working Americans."

Asked whether the president would reject any agreement that did not reopen the government, Carney was evasive.

"You're asking me hypotheticals," he said.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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