President Barack Obama said Monday that senators had made progress in their negotiations to both re-open the federal government and pay its bills.
"There has been some progress on the Senate side with Republicans recognizing it's not tenable, it's not smart, it's not good for the American people to let America default," Obama said. "There's been some progress in recognizing that we're not going to be able to completely bridge the differences between the parties all at once. And so it doesn't make sense in the meantime to try to use a shutdown or the threat of default as leverage in negotiations."
Obama made the remarks an impromtu stop at Martha’s Table, where federal employees who are on furlough were volunteering to feed the needy.
He had invited the four congressional leaders to the White House Monday afternoon, but then delayed the meeting after it appeared the Senate was making headway.
"We'll see this afternoon whether this progress is real. I think there has been some progress from the Senate," he said. "I think House Republicans continue to think that somehow they can extract concessions by keeping the government shut down or by threatening default. And my hope is is that -- that a spirit of cooperation will move us forward over the next few hours."
Action moved to the Senate after talks between the White House and the Republican-led House of Representatives broke down Saturday.
The future of any compromise now rests largely on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. They, along with Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Schumer met Saturday for the first time to discuss a way forward.
"The problem is that we've seen this brinkmanship as a strategy time and time again to try to extract extreme or partisan concessions," he said. "And I think the American people have made very clear that's not how we expect Washington to do business. There are going to be differences between the parties. There are going to be differences in terms of budget priorities. But we don't need to inflict pain on the American people or risk the possibility that America's full faith and credit is damaged just because one side is not getting its way.
Obama, wearing a green apron, stopped to talk to students from Sidwell Friends, who were making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and some furloughed feds making yogurt parfait and baloney sandwiches. Standing in front of stainless steel table, Obama turned to a bank of cameras and addressed the government shutdown and debt ceiling crisis.
“This week if we don’t start making some real progress, both the House and the Senate and 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 have a devastating affect on our economy,” he said. “There has been some progress in recognizing we’re not going to be able to completely bridge the differences between the parties all at once,” he said.