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Washington • Utah Rep. Jim Matheson joined fellow Democrats in a meeting with President Barack Obama on Wednesday, the first of several gatherings aimed at ending the stalemate that led to the government shutdown.
"Any engagement with Congress is a good idea," Matheson said, leaving the White House. "Ultimately it's up to Congress to solve this problem. We could solve this tomorrow if Speaker [John] Boehner could just bring up a clean continuing resolution," a phrase for a budget bill with no conditions attached.
As the shutdown continues, with no end in sight to the logjam, Obama has called in members and leaders of Congress to White House talks, starting with House Democrats. House Republican brass and Senate Democrats are expected Thursday.
The president met with the Democrats for more than an hour, thanking them for supporting a short-term budget plan that would re-open the government.
"The president and the House Democrats reaffirmed their shared belief that we cannot let one faction of the Republicans in the House demand a ransom for Congress doing its job and paying the bills we have already incurred," according to a summary of the meeting provided by the White House. "He reminded them that what they are all fighting for has nothing to do with him, or other party leaders but is about fighting for working families and building the ladders of opportunity so everyone who works hard has a chance to succeed."
Matheson, who was one of 200 Democrats in the meeting, didn't get a chance to ask Obama any questions but said there was a consensus that Congress has the votes to pass a budget if House Republicans would simply allow a vote on a Senate measure to re-open the government.
"I hope we can do it sooner rather than later," Matheson said.
Earlier Wednesday, Matheson joined other leaders of the Democratic Blue Dog Coalition to urge House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to take the crisis created by the government shutdown to look at comprehensive budget reform.
"Congress cannot continue to approach long-term deficit reduction in piecemeal fashion," read the letter co-signed by Matheson.
"We simply must stop living from crisis to crisis. It is no way for a superpower to govern and continues to cause permanent economic damage to our country."
"It's time for governing, not gridlock," the group added.