A tense day of negotiations between the White House and congressional Republican leaders carried well into Thursday might, but failed to yield a budget deal that would avert a looming government shutdown.
After a second major meeting of the day at the White House, President Obama said the two sides have made “additional progress” towards narrowing their differences over spending cuts and policy issues, but not enough to close the deal.
“There are still a few issues that are outstanding,” Obama said in the White House press room. “They are difficult issues, they are important to both sides and so I’m not yet prepared to express wild optimism.”
Obama said Democratic and Republican negotiators would continue to work around the clock, and he hoped to have a deal that he could announce by Friday afternoon. Meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who took part in the White House meeting, issued a joint 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.”
While Boehner and Reid were meeting with the president, their colleagues on Capitol Hill worked to pass another continuing resolution that would buy both sides some additional time.
The Republican controlled House approved a one-week stopgap spending bill by a vote of 247 to 181. The bill includes $12 billion in cuts to discretionary domestic programs, and funding for the Defense Department through the rest of the fiscal year. Overall, the bill would cut $4.4 billion in current spending.
The bill also contained a “policy rider” to ban federal and local government funding for abortions in the District of Columbia. Democrats say they don’t want another temporary bill – the seventh of the current fiscal year. Obama vowed to veto it calling the measure a distraction from negotiations on a full-year spending bill. However in a formal “statement of administration policy,” the Office of Management and Budget said Thursday, “As the president stated on April 5, 2011, if negotiations are making significant progress, the administration would support a short-term, clean continuing resolution to allow for enactment of a final bill.”
In announcing progress but no deal, Obama stressed the dangers of a government shutdown to the nation, including its fragile economic recovery. He said that if negotiations fail and the government begins to close its doors beginning midnight Friday, it could result in the furlough of more than 800,000 federal workers across the country, delayed payments to U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, the closing of museums and national parks, delays in issuing passports and approving housing loans, and possibly an economic setback.
“For us to go backwards because Washington couldn’t get its act together is unacceptable,” Obama said.
Meanwhile, the verbal haymakers continued to fly on Thursday between Democratic and Republican Congressional members. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said in an interview on CNN “this isn’t a debate between Democrats and Republicans; it’s a debate between Republicans and Republicans.” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, lampooned the Senate for not acting in the last 47 days. “This whole process would have been a lot easier if the Senate and the White House actually had a position, but they don’t,” he added.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor added: “The president has continued to say he wants an adult conversation, and we’re all adults here, but let’s be real. The adult thing to do here is to keep the government functioning. It is to get our fiscal house in order; it is to pay our troops, and it is to get Americans back to work.”
Majority of Experts Predict Government Shutdown (The Fiscal Times)
Government Shutdown: 13 Ways a Shutdown Can Hurt You (The Fiscal Times)
Double Dare – A look Back at the 1995 Government Shutdown (The Fiscal Times)