Obama to meet congressional leaders over shutdown, debt ceiling

US House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) joined by House Democrats speaks on the steps of the House during a news conference on the federal government shutdown at the U.S. Capitol on October 2, 2013 in Washington, DC. President Barack Obama is set to meet with congressional leaders at the White House to discuss an end to the government shutdown.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama will meet the four top leaders of Congress at the White House on Wednesday to urge lawmakers to reopen the government and raise the US debt ceiling, a White House official said.

Obama will meet at 5:30 p.m. with Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.

Obama will urge the House to pass a "clean" bill to re-open the US government, the official said.

Boehner's office said the meeting would be the start of serious talks to bridge differences that led to government agencies closing down.

Ripple effects

Meanwhile, US intelligence community leaders warned on Wednesday that the government shutdown, now in its second day, is an "insidious" threat to national security that will increase the longer thousands of workers are off the job.

"I've been in the intelligence business for about 50 years. I've never seen anything like this," James Clapper, the US Director of National Intelligence, said at a US Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the eavesdropping programs.

"This (the shutdown) affects our global capability to support the military, to support diplomacy and foreign policy matters. The danger here is that this will accumulate over time. The damage will be insidious, so each day that goes by the jeopardy increases," he said.

The US Army's chief of staff also warned that the government shutdown was significantly harming the army's day-to-day operations and he urged a rapid resolution to the funding row.

General Ray Odierno said Wednesday the shutdown "impacts significantly day-to-day operations," forcing the military to cut training and travel and to focus on essential tasks.

"The longer it goes on, the worse it gets. Every day that goes by, we are losing manpower, we are losing capability, so in my mind it is important we get this resolved," he told Reuters in a telephone interview from Germany, where he was attending a conference.

Impact on public

A string of cancelations and delays caused by the federal government shutdown rippled across the United States on Wednesday, ruining dream vacations, upending carefully laid wedding plans and complicating the lives of millions of people.

From blood drives to daycare programs, musical performances to research projects, the disruptions caused by the political stalemate in Washington sparked growing frustrations and left people scrambling to make alternative plans.

Scores of weddings planned at national parks and monuments around the country were moved or postponed, and vacationers hustled to change their itineraries after finding iconic sites from the Statue of Liberty to the Lincoln Memorial closed.


Global equity markets and the dollar fell on Wednesday as the shutdown entered its second day and as data showed US private employers added fewer jobs than expected last month.

Market volatility will likely increase the longer the shutdown persists. Investors are also looking for an indication of how negotiations play out over the looming need to raise the government's debt ceiling. The debt ceiling is far more important, as it could lead to an unprecedented default by the United States, though that is considered unlikely.

Data showing US private employers added 166,000 jobs in September, below forecasts for 180,000 new jobs, added to investor jitters. The private-sector report has taken on added significance this week because the government shutdown means that the monthly payrolls report due out on Friday from the Labor Department may be delayed.

Obama's plans

The US president scrapped the Malaysia and Philippine portions of a scheduled four-country Asia trip because of the shutdown, and the rest of the trip remains up in the air, the White House said on Wednesday.

Obama is scheduled to set off on the trip on Saturday. He was to have visited Malaysia and the Philippines after attending international summits in Indonesia and Brunei.