President Obama and Republican congressional leaders failed to reach agreement on a budget deal Tuesday at a White House meeting aimed at averting a federal government shutdown, according to the office of the GOP House speaker.
The meeting came as federal officials began formal preparations for a government shutdown by a Friday deadline. Obama’s talks with congressional leaders represented a late effort to reach a deal over tens of billions of dollars in spending cuts that would avert the federal work stoppage.
Congressional leaders left the White House around noon after the meeting, which lasted just over an hour. Administration officials did not immediately comment, but the office of House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said the two sides had not yet come to terms on the dollar value of total spending cuts.
After the meeting, Boehner’s office suggested that Democrats were trying to put him “in a box” on spending levels. “As he has said for the past week, the speaker reminded those present that there has never been an agreement on $33 billion as an acceptable level of spending cuts, and that $33 billion in cuts is not enough, particularly when it is achieved in large part through budget gimmicks,” Boehner’s office said.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), meanwhile, told reporters that the prospects for reaching a funding deal for the rest of the year were so far off that it was not very likely this week. He said after conferring with Boehner that the best chance of averting a work stoppage is approving the GOP’s offer of a one-week extension of government funding, through April 15, in exchange for $12 billion in spending cuts and full funding of the Pentagon for the remainder of the year.
“I’m saying I don’t think that’s even a likelihood and that there would be some need for a bridge to get there, but the bottom line is, we don’t have a deal,” Cantor said, dismissing the idea that a broad deal could be reached by Friday.
Earlier, Democrats provided conflicting reports on whether Obama would accept the Republican extension.
The No. 2 House Democrat said Tuesday that members of his party would oppose the stopgap measure unveiled by House Republicans Monday night.
“I will oppose this bill,” House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters. “I hope other Democrats will oppose it. I don’t know that every Democrat will oppose it. There will be some things in there that they perhaps think are appropriate.”
But White House spokesman Jay Carney, speaking to reporters before the start of the meeting between Obama and congressional leaders, would not comment on the GOP’s short-term proposal to fund the government for another week. He would neither confirm nor deny reports that the White House had already shot down the deal, saying only that the administration believes a long-term agreement is “within reach.”
House GOP leaders said that if Obama rejected their one-week extension of government funding because of the heavy cuts in spending attached to it, he would bear the blame for heightening the chances of a federal worker shutdown.
Read more at The Washington Post.