As Negotiators Near Spending Deal, Riders Stall Final Agreement

April 6, 2011 8:47 am

A Senate Democratic leadership aide tells me that top negotiators for House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) are nearing an agreement that would cut federal spending by somewhere between $33 billion and $40 billion dollars but “much closer to 33.”

The men quarterbacking that side of the spending fight are Boehner’s chief of staff Barry Jackson and Reid’s chief of staff David Krone. They’re working with multiple frameworks that contain somewhat different allocations, and mixes of discretionary and mandatory spending, but according to the aide, are close to resolving that side of the issue.

However, another side of the equation is still holding up a final deal. That’s where things get tough.At a higher level, Boehner and Reid are still miles apart on the policy riders that Republicans are demanding — including controversial restrictions on abortion, EPA authority, and implementation of the health care law. Reid and President Obama drew a firm line on these in a White House meeting with Boehner on Tuesday. They’re making the case that even if the Speaker manages to secure a small number of them, he’ll be as much on the outs with conservatives in his party as he would be if he comes back empty handed.

Boehner spokesman Michael Steel responded to this version of events in an email. “There’s no way we can come to agreement on a number without agreement on riders,” he said. “There will be no deal on a number until there’s agreement on riders.”

Obama and Boehner spoke by phone briefly this afternoon.

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