House Speaker John Boehner on Tuesday rejected a claim by President Obama that House Republicans are unwilling to negotiate over the debt limit and government funding legislation and said the president is demanding "unconditional surrender" from the GOP.
"There is going to be a negotiation here," Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters shortly after Obama held a White House press conference to press his case.
Republicans and Democrats are gridlocked over how to fund the fiscal 2014 federal budget and whether to raise the nation's $16.7 trillion debt ceiling.
Obama called Boehner Tuesday morning, telling the speaker he is willing to sit down and talk to Republicans about their concerns over the new health care law, but only after the GOP approves a funding bill needed to reopen the government with no strings attached.
House Republicans want to delay or limit the implementation of the health care law and have refused to fund the government unless Obama and Senate Democrats go along.
The House has passed a series of smaller bills that would fund only certain parts of the government, including the military, but the Senate has refused to consider them.
Boehner was asked about reports that the shutdown has delayed the payment of death benefits to families of fallen soldiers. He said the Pentagon has "broad authority to pay all kinds of bills, including this."
"Frankly I think it's disgraceful," Boehner said of the delays. The House will take up a bill on Wednesday that would address the issue.
Boehner is insisting that any increase in the government's borrowing limit be accompanied by spending cuts needed to rein in the debt and deficit.
"The idea that we can continue to spend money we don't have and give the bill to our kids and grandkids would be wrong," Boehner said. "The conversation ought to start today."
Senate Democrats, meanwhile, on Tuesday were calling on the upper chamber to take the lead in finding a solution that would both reopen the government and raise the debt limit by mid-October.
House Republicans on Tuesday plan to pass legislation calling for a bipartisan committee to work out a solution, but the Obama administration opposes such a committee. A White House issued a statement saying that "does nothing to solve the immediate, pressing obligations the Congress has to open the government and pay its bills."
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard McKeon, R-Calif., meanwhile, confirmed that the Pentagon has the authority to pay the death benefits to soldiers' families.
"If the Pentagon believes they need more explicit authority to disburse these payments, I am sure the House will provide it in very short order," McKeon said.