Congressional negotiators working through the night failed to reach an agreement to fund the federal government for the remainder of the year as their talks foundered over two Republican policy provisions on abortion and the environment, increasing the likelihood of a government shutdown beginning this weekend, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said Thursday morning.
Reid said the negotiators largely agreed to an amount of spending cuts, but House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) disputed that.
“The numbers are basically there, but I am not nearly as optimistic — and that’s an understatement — as I was 11 hours ago,” Reid said. “The numbers are extremely close, and our differences are no longer over how much savings we get on government spending. The only thing holding up an agreement is ideology. I’m sorry to say that my friend, the speaker, and the Republican leadership have drawn a line in the sand not dealing with the deficit we know we have to deal with, not with the numbers that fund the government for the rest of this fiscal year. The issue is ideology, not numbers.”
Boehner took the House floor after 11 a.m. to reject the idea that an agreement was close.
“Talks to resolve last year’s budget are progressing, but there is no agreement yet. No agreement on numbers,” Boehner said. Instead, he urged the Senate to accept a stopgap measure that would fund the Department of Defense for the rest of the fiscal year, and the rest of the government for one week.
“I think we all know that no one wants a shutdown,” Boehner said.
Separately, the White House announced Thursday morning that President Obama and Vice President Biden would hold another meeting in the Oval Office in the afternoon with Reid and Boehner in an effort to reach a breakthrough on the fiscal 2011 budget.
Obama and economists have warned that a federal government shutdown could seriously damage the economy.
Reid said his staff worked through the night with negotiators for Boehner and the administration following a nearly two-hour meeting at the White House Wednesday night. He said the talks are at an impasse over restrictions on abortion funding and changes to environmental regulations, which House Republicans want to be part of any budget deal.
“It’s not realistic to shut down the government on a debate dealing with abortion,” Reid said. “It’s not fair to the American people. We haven’t solved the issue in 40 years. We’re not going to solve it in the next 38 hours. We should not be distracted by ideology. This is a bill that funds the government.”
Reid added: “If this government shuts down, and it looks like it’s heading in that direction, it’s going to be based on my friends in the House of Representatives focusing on ideological matters that have nothing to do with funding this government. That’s a sad day, I think.”
Read More at The Washington Post.