Sign in to comment!

Menu
Home

Politics

House of Representatives

Obama Presses for Overnight Negotiations to Yield Budget Deal, Avoid Shutdown

Obama Speak on Looming Shutdown

April 7, 2011: President Obama speaks to the media after a meeting with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., at the White House. (AP)

Lawmakers worked through the night Thursday to try to reach a budget deal, but with no word on their progress, it was unclear whether or not there would be an announcement in the morning that a federal shutdown had been avoided.

And with a shutdown possible as early as midnight at the end of Friday, time is almost up.

Following another high-stakes meeting with congressional leaders Thursday evening, President Obama said he expected an answer early Friday on whether or not an agreement had been reached.

"Because the machinery of the shutdown is starting to move, I expect an answer in the morning," Obama said in the White House briefing room after the meeting with House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. "And my hope is that I'll be able to announce to the American people sometime relatively early in the day that a shutdown has been averted."

"I'm not prepared yet to express wild optimism, but I think we are further along today than we were yesterday," Obama said.

The latest White House summit came hours after the House passed a stopgap budget bill that would fund the government for one week and the military for the rest of the year, though Senate Democrats oppose it and the president has vowed to veto it.

The Republican-authored package passed on a 247-181 vote, mostly with GOP support. The vote was a last-ditch attempt to avert a government shutdown as Congress nears the Friday deadline, and the chances of that happening didn't seem to improve as of Thursday afternoon.

Seconds after the vote, Reid and Boehner emerged from a White House meeting to declare there was still no deal to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year.

"There is no agreement on a number. There (is) no agreement on the policy issues," Boehner said. "We're continuing to work toward an agreement. ... But we are not there yet."

Following their meeting with the president Thursday evening, Boehner and Reid did not give a live statement for reporters, instead issuing a joint written statement: "We have narrowed the issues, however, we have not yet reached an agreement. We will continue to work through the night to attempt to resolve our remaining differences."

Even if they were able to strike an agreement on a budget for the rest of the year, it's doubtful they would be able to write it and put it to a vote before the shutdown deadline. That's why some lawmakers have tried to give the negotiations a buffer period by pushing a stopgap bill. The Republican proposal which passed the House would cut $12 billion and keep the government running for a week.

But the White House issued a statement Thursday afternoon declaring that Obama would veto the measure.

"This bill is a distraction from the real work that would bring us closer to a reasonable compromise for funding the remainder of fiscal year 2011," the White House said.

Reid, speaking on the Senate floor Thursday morning, also predicted his chamber would reject the Republicans' bill. "It's a fantasy," Reid said. "This is a non-starter in the Senate."

Reid said the government "looks like it's heading" toward a shutdown without a deal on a six-month plan.

The White House statement reiterated that the president could accept a "clean" short-term bill -- in other words, one that doesn't include so many cuts and doesn't include policy riders. But House Democrats were unable to push such a bill through the House Thursday afternoon.

Though Reid claimed Thursday that "the only thing holding up an agreement is ideology," Boehner reiterated that lawmakers still haven't settled on how much money to cut.

With a shutdown on the horizon, lawmakers kicked the fingerpointing into high gear.

Reid preemptively blamed Republicans, saying they wouldn't budge and calling their agenda "extreme." Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell pointed the finger right back, saying the Senate could still avert a shutdown by approving the one-week stopgap House Republicans plan to send over.

"This is the only proposal out there that keeps the government open," McConnell said. "If a shutdown does occur, our Democratic friends have no one to blame but themselves."

"There's no policy reason for the Senate to oppose this bill," Boehner told reporters Thursday. Boehner spokesman Michael Steel also said there's "no agreement" on a number regarding a bill for the rest of the year.

Boehner, in an earlier interview with ABC News' "Good Morning America," said he continues to fight for the largest possible cuts and that there is "no daylight between the Tea Party and me." The Republican stopgap bill would also fund the Pentagon for the remainder of the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30.

A few on Capitol Hill showed glimmers of optimism amid the uncertainty.

"How did you do in your brackets, by the way?" House Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier, R-Calif., asked Thursday before noting he didn't do so well on his college basketball picks. He said he's not going to apply the same approach to the budget.

"I'm not going to make a prediction other than to say we've got a good chance to do it," Dreier told Fox News.

Even if a temporary measure is passed, Congress would be back at the same place a week from now, so the White House is making a renewed push to bring the two sides toward a longer-term compromise.

Obama, after meeting earlier in the week with Reid and Boehner, summoned them again to the White House Wednesday night. They did not reach a deal, but Obama called the discussion "frank" and "constructive."

"If we are serious about getting something done we should be able to complete a deal, get it passed and avert a shutdown," Obama told reporters in the White House briefing room.

House Republicans originally passed a budget cutting $61 billion from last year's spending. Democrats have since proposed cutting $33 billion, and negotiators have recently toyed with the idea of bringing that number toward $40 billion.