Democratic President Barack Obama, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner have so far failed to reach an agreement on legislation to fund the federal government and to avert a partial government showdown after current funding expires Friday. The president has summoned the two congressional leaders to return to the White House Thursday evening in an effort to get them to agree to a last-minute compromise.
With still no agreement in sight on domestic government spending for the rest of the 2011 fiscal year, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has passed another stopgap measure to keep the federal govenment running for one more week. It would require $12 billion in domestic spending cuts and fund U.S. military operations for the rest of the fiscal year. The vote was 247 in favor and 181 against, but it is unlikely to be passed in the Senate.
Republican House Speaker John Boehner emerged from a meeting with Senate Majority leader Harry Reid and President Obama to say there is still no deal on a longer-term measure.
"I did ask the president to sign the stopgap measure that we passed to fund our troops and to keep our government open, and I did express to the president my disappointment that he suggested he would veto that bill," said Boehner.
Both the president and Democratic leaders in the Senate have rejected the House bill outright.
Senate Democrats say that Republican and Democratic lawmakers have essentially agreed on how much spending to cut and where the money should come from for the federal budget. But they say Republicans are holding up legislation that would avert a partial government shutdown because of ideological issues.
Reid said the reason there is still no agreement is because Republicans insist on not funding several programs that Democrats favor, such as Planned Parenthood - a national reproductive health care provider that offers abortion counseling.
"They have made a decision to shut down the government because they want to make it harder, for example, for a woman to get a cancer screening? Do they really want to shut down the government because the Tea Party [a conservative and libertarian wing of the Republican Party] does not want scientists to make sure the air we breathe is clean and pure," asked Reid.
Reid's fellow Democrat, Senator Dick Durbin agreed and called on Boehner to reign in the fiscally-conservative Tea Party members of his caucus who are calling for the policy directives on issues such as Planned Parenthood and the regulation of greenhouse gases.
"it is time for Speaker Boehner to acknowledge that we have an agreement - we are going to reduce the deficit for the remainder of this year," said Durbin. "And he has to tell his Tea Party 'roughriders' to put their horses in the barn. Save this argument for another day."
Republican House Speaker John Boehner defended the policy directives that his party is attaching to the budget resolution, saying that budget bills often come with directives that specify how the federal government can spend its money.
So for now, the budget drama continues to dominate news in Washington, with Friday looming as the deadline for a partial government shutdown that would affect services for millions of Americans and leave some 800,000 federal employees furloughed until funding is approved.