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Obama, Lawmakers Headed for 4th Round of Budget Negotiations

House Speaker John Boehner listens at left, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid speaks to reporters outside the White House, April 7, 2011

House Speaker John Boehner listens at left, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid speaks to reporters outside the White House, April 7, 2011

President Barack and Obama and congressional leaders are headed for the fourth round of negotiations this week at the White House as they try to reach a compromise to avert a partial U.S. government shutdown.

The president, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Republican House Speaker John Boehner will hold their fourth round of talks later Thursday.

Earlier, there appeared to have been little if any progress in round-the-clock negotiations involving congressional staffs and Obama administration officials.

And comments by Reid and Boehner made it difficult to discern whether there has been any "narrowing" of differences as was suggested in comments earlier in the week.

Democrats say main sticking points are Republican policy provisions, separate of a specific 2011 fiscal year budget cut figure, that would prohibit government payments to abortion providers, and restrict government regulation of clean air policies.

On Capitol Hill, Boehner suggested that a wide range of issues, including the question of an overall budget cut level, stand in the way of an agreement.

"There is no agreement on a number, in fact I think we were closer to a number last night than we are this morning," said Boehner. "There are a number of issues that are on the table and any attempt to try to narrow this down to one or two, just would not be accurate."

Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer asserted there has been consensus on an overall budget reduction figure, and asserted that ideological issues driven by the grassroots conservative Tea Party, are at the heart of the problem.

"We pretty much have a consensus on the right level of cuts and where they should come from," said Schumer. "It is the ideological riders that having nothing to do with the [government] deficit, that are standing in the way."

Tea Party members who are part of the Republican majority in the House of Representatives, have been pressing Speaker Boehner to hold out for the largest cuts possible.

Reid and Boehner spoke to reporters at the White House earlier on Thursday as they announced they will return for a fourth round of talks with Mr. Obama.

BOEHNER: "There is no agreement on a number, there [is] no agreement on the policy issues that are contained with this."

REID: "So we are going to continue to work to get this done. It is not easy to do, but it is doable."

Further complicating the picture, the House of Representatives approved a temporary measure to keep the government operating for another week, with $12 billion in budget cuts.

But it was crafted by Republicans to embarrass Democrats who, if they voted against it, might be seen by the public to be failing to support U.S. troops.

That legislative tactic angered President Obama who issued a veto threat, calling the measure a distraction from the goal of a compromise to fund the government for the full year.

Republican congressmen, including Kevin McCarthy of California made use of the issue as they accused Democrats and Mr. Obama of supporting a government shutdown.

"If Reid shuts and the president shuts the government down, and does not fund the troops, shame on them," said McCarthy.

If negotiations fail to come up with a solution to the fierce debate over the budget and spending cuts, the federal government would begin a partial shutdown on Friday.