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WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is sounding an optimistic note saying there has been progress in the Senate toward resolving a standoff over the nation's debt and the partial government shutdown. But he cautions that if Republicans don't cooperate, "we stand a good chance of defaulting."
Obama's remarks came as the Senate's Republican and Democratic leaders were holding talks in hope of finding an agreement. Obama invited the bipartisan leadership of the House and Senate to the White House Monday afternoon.
"There has been some progress on the Senate side, with Republicans recognizing it's not tenable, it's not smart, it's not good for the American people to let America default," he said while visiting a Washington D.C., charity that has retained furloughed government workers as volunteers. "We'll see this afternoon whether this progress is real."
The charity food kitchen, Martha's Table, is also offering assistance to federal employees who are not being paid and need emergency aid.
The visit comes at the start of the third week of the shutdown and just three days before the Treasury says Congress must increase the nation's borrowing limit or risk a government default.
"There are going to be differences between the parties," Obama said. "There are going to be differences in terms of budget priorities. But we don't need to inflict pain on the American people, or risk the possibility of America's full faith and credit being damaged just because one side is not getting its way."
The leaders scheduled to attend the White House meeting are Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Vice President Joe Biden is also scheduled to attend.
The last meeting between Obama and the congressional leaders was Oct. 2.
The White House says Obama will reiterate his desire for Congress to pass bills to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling. The White House also says he will make clear that he "will not pay ransom" for lawmakers taking those steps.