High Drama As Congressional Leaders Lose Hope Of Avoiding Government Shutdown

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April 5, 2011 11:37 a.m.
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After a White House meeting with President Obama Tuesday, leaders on Capitol Hill and their aides made it clear that they’ve reached an impasse in the spending cut fight, and see no way around it.

Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) will put their heads together this afternoon in a private meeting at the Capitol to try to find common ground. And Obama, wading deeper into the government shutdown thicket than ever before, said at an unscheduled press conference that he’d bring the two leaders back to the White House Wednesday if they can’t come to an understanding tonight.

But both Republicans and Democrats say it’s not looking good.“We’re not going to allow the Senate or the White House to put us in a box where we have to make a choice between two bad options: cutting a bad deal this week in order to keep the government open, or allow the government to shut down due to Senate inaction,” said Boehner at a Capitol briefing during Obama’s press conference.

Boehner and the GOP have floated a stopgap spending measure, which includes deep cuts, to buy Congress another week to negotiate — but Democrats and the White House have rejected that plan.

A spokesman for Reid told reporters during a Senate vote that Boehner moved the goalposts in Tuesday’s White House meeting. Republicans are now positing $40 billion in cuts as a possible target for a deal — up a few billion from the range of cuts that had marked the negotiations for about two weeks. Democrats are not accepting that figure.

“They’re saying they won’t agree to anything unless they get 218 Republican votes,” Reid told reporters at his weekly press availability after returning from the White House.

Boehner’s spokesman Michael Steel flatly denied this charge.

Echoing House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Reid said “I’m not real optimistic, no I’m not.”

“[President Obama] agrees with me — there’s only so much we can do,” Reid added.

House Republicans appear ready to expedite the paperwork on a deal, if Republicans and Democrats finally come to one this week. But they’re also saying the Senate and the White House offers thus far are unacceptable.

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