As Washington remained locked in a political impasse for the ninth day with a looming debt default deadline, President Barack Obama invited lawmakers from both Democratic and Republican parties for meetings to discuss the crisis.
House Democrats have been invited to the White House Wednesday afternoon. Senate Democrats, House Republicans and Senate Republicans will be asked to attend similar sessions in the coming days, a White House official said Wednesday.
The meetings signalling the beginning of an attempt to avert a damaging debt default came as the Republicans Tuesday rebuffed President Barack Obama's offer to negotiate if the shutdown was ended and US debt limit was raised first.
"I will not eliminate any topic of conversation, and I've shown myself willing to engage all the parties involved, any leader on the issue," Obama said Tuesday with the Oct 17 deadline when the Treasury says it would run out of money to pay US debts just over a week away.
"The only thing I will say is that we're not going to pay a ransom for America paying its bills. That's something that should be non-negotiable," he said.
"Let's lift these threats from our families and our businesses and let's get down to work," Obama said, chiding Republicans for their tactics in dealing with the twin issues.
Failing to raise the debt ceiling "would be dramatically worse" than a government shutdown and posed a "very significant risk" of a deep recession, Obama warned.
John Boehner, Speaker of the Republican controlled House, immediately rejected Obama's offer saying the president's position was "unsustainable".
"What the president said today was if there's unconditional surrender by Republicans, he'll sit down and talk to us," Boehner said.
"At times like this the American people expect their leaders to sit down and have a conversation. I want that conversation to occur now," he said adding, there's never been a president who hasn't negotiated on the debt limit.
The way to resolve differences over raising the nation's debt limit is "to sit down and have a conversation to resolve our differences," Boehner said.
The Republicans have sought to defund, dismantle or at least delay Obama's signature healthcare law as the price for passing the budget. They also want deficit reduction talks in exchange for raising the nation's $16.7 trillion debt limit.
Obama, on the other hand, challenged Boehner to bring a no-strings-attached "clean" spending bill for a vote on the House floor. Until Boehner does that, he said, "there's going to be a cloud over US economic credibility."