Obama calls Congress leaders to meet at White House for shutdown talks

WASHINGTON (AFP) - United States President Barack Obama called Republican and Democratic leaders to a White House meeting on Wednesday as a government shutdown went deep into a second day.

The talks at 5.30pm local time will include Republican House Speaker John Boehner, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid and House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, White House and congressional sources said.

Mr Obama will urge the House of Representatives to pass a spending Bill to reopen the government without measures designed to disable his health care Bill that Democrats in the Senate refuse to pass, a White House official said.

Mr Obama will also urge Congress to pass a Bill lifting the government’s debt ceiling, without which the government could run out of money to pay its bills by the middle of the month and which could trigger a debt default for the first time in US history.

Republicans quickly claimed the fact a meeting will take place as a victory, after accusing Mr Obama of refusing to negotiate with them on budget issues that forced government departments to shut down and sent hundreds of thousands of federal workers home without pay.

“We’re pleased the President finally recognizes that his refusal to negotiate is indefensible,” said Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck.

“It’s unclear why we’d be having this meeting if it’s not meant to be a start to serious talks between the two parties.”