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Obama tells congressional leaders he won't negotiate on shutdown, debt

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks from the White House about the shootings at the U.S. Navy Yard in Washington September 16, 2013. REUTERS/
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks from the White House about the shootings at the U.S. Navy Yard in Washington September 16, 2013. REUTERS/

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama stressed to congressional leaders on Wednesday that he will not negotiate with Republicans over a government shutdown or raising the U.S. debt limit, the White House said.

After more than an hour of talks at the White House that did not lead to a breakthrough, the White House issued a statement saying that Obama remains hopeful that "common sense will prevail" in the budget standoff.

"The president made clear to the leaders that he is not going to negotiate over the need for Congress to act to reopen the government or to raise the debt limit to pay the bills Congress has already incurred," the White House said.

Obama held talks in the Oval Office with the top U.S. Republican, House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, the Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, the top Democrat in Congress, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.

It was their first face-to-face talks since a government shutdown began on Tuesday.

House Republicans have been demanding that Obama agree to cut funding or delay implementation of his signature healthcare law in exchange for their agreement to approve spending measures to reopen the government.

In addition to the government shutdown, the United States faces a historic debt default on October 17 unless Congress agrees to raise the U.S. borrowing limit.

"The House could act today to reopen the government and stop the harm this shutdown is causing to the economy and families across the country," the White House said.

"The president remains hopeful that common sense will prevail, and that Congress will not only do its job to reopen the government, but also act to pay the bills it has racked up and spare the nation from a devastating default," it said.

(Reporting By Steve Holland; Editing by Stacey Joyce and David Brunnstrom)

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