"What the president said today was if there's unconditional surrender by Republicans, he'll sit down and talk," he said. Renewing his call for "a conversation" about key issues facing the country, the Ohio Republican said, "Not next week. Not next month. The conversation ought to start today."
Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew has said the deadline for Congress to act is Oct., 17, setting that as the day the government will exhaust its ability to borrow funds and will have to rely day-to-day on tax and other receipts to pay its bills.
Some Republicans have downplayed the significance of the Oct. 17 deadline, saying that even then, the United States would be able to pay China and other holders of U.S. debt and avoid widespread economic dislocation.
But Obama said they were badly misguided, warning that default would harm the economy, cause retirement accounts to shrivel and houses to lose value. Still other Republicans have made it clear in recent days they agree with the threat posed by default and are determined to prevent it.
Inside a closed-door meeting of the Republican rank and file, Boehner had told his fellow Republicans they were in the midst of a tough battle and that Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid were trying to "annihilate us," according to one official in attendance.
Boehner's tone was different when he spoke to reporters.
"There's no boundaries here. There's nothing on the table. There's nothing off the table. I'm trying to do everything I can to bring people together and to have a conversation," he said.
In the back-and-forth, the threat of a default overshadowed the continuing partial government shutdown. An estimated 450,000 federal workers are idled at agencies responsible for items as diverse as food inspection and national parks, although all employees are eventually expected to receive full back pay.
The House approved legislation during the day to pay for a resumption of Head Start, the pre-school program for disadvantaged children. The vote was 248-168. The bill was the latest in a string of measures to end the shutdown in one corner of government or another in hopes of forcing Democrats to abandon their own demands for a full reopening of the federal establishment.
Republicans also announced they would vote to make sure federal workers on the job don't miss their next regularly scheduled paycheck on Oct. 15.
The shutdown began more than a week ago after Obama and Senate Democrats rejected Republican demands to defund "Obamacare," then to delay it, and finally to force a one-year delay in the requirement for individuals to purchase health care coverage or face a financial penalty.
It was not a course Boehner and the leadership had recommended — preferring a less confrontational approach and hoping to defer a showdown for the debt limit. Their hand was forced by a strategy advanced by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and tea party-aligned House members determined to eradicate the health care law before it fully took root.
That portion of the strategy was doomed to failure, since money for the health care program was never cut off.
With the government partially shut down, Boehner and the GOP leadership decided to allow the closure showdown to merge with one over the debt limit.