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Shutdown saga heads into another weekend

President Obama’s meeting with Republican senators on Friday gets mixed reviews

White House press secretary Jay Carney gestures to reporters during Friday's White House press briefing. Associated Press/Photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Shutdown saga heads into another weekend

WASHINGTON—While lawmakers still hadn’t reached agreement on a broader deal to end the partial government shutdown as of Friday evening, movement continued toward a short-term deal.

More than 40 Republican senators attended a White House meeting with President Barack Obama Friday. White House spokesman Jay Carney called the talks “constructive.” But Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said the meeting was “another predictable lecture from the president that did not lay out a new path forward.” Still, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio said it was an “important change” that the president was “finally negotiating.”

According to senators in attendance, Obama sought new revenues as a part of any long-term deficit deal and would like to cut back the series of spending cuts known as the sequestration. But that will be a nonstarter for most Republicans. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said the president seemed open to repealing a medical devices tax that is a part of Obamacare. Most Republicans will not see that as much of a concession because a large number of Democrats in the Senate already support getting rid of the controversial tax.

House Speaker John Boehner will face pressure from conservative Republicans not to cave to Obama’s demands, especially after going this far. Conservatives outside of Congress who want to make sure real changes are put on the negotiating table include those in the pro-life movement. More than 40 national and statewide pro-life leaders signed a letter to Boehner on Friday asking that any deal struck included conscience protections and provisions for ending taxpayer funding of abortion.

Thursday night, the Senate, which has refused to take up most of the smaller bills passed by the House to restart parts of the government, agreed on a measure to allow military chaplains to conduct religious services. Both houses of Congress passed a bill last week that funded the military, but Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the law did not cover chaplains or death benefits for fallen soldiers. A bill to restore funding for the $100,000 payments given to families of deceased soldiers was signed into law by the president Thursday night after it had received overwhelming support in the House and Senate.

— with reporting by J.C. Derrick.

Edward Lee Pitts

Lee is the executive director of the World Journalism Institute and former Washington, D.C. bureau chief for WORLD Magazine. He is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and teaches journalism at Dordt University in Sioux Center, Iowa.

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