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No Budget Deal in Congress Hours Before US Government Shutdown

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) gestures while speaking with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 8, 2011, to discuss the budget impasse.

Democratic and Republican lawmakers are blaming each other for the failure to agree on a 2011 budget to avert a government shut down.

White House and congressional staff members are still working feverishly to hammer out an agreement before midnight, when the shut down would go into effect.

A White House spokesman says President Obama has spoken to Democratic Senate Majority leader Harry Reid and Republican House Speaker John Boehner in separate phone conversations.

The president has summoned the two leaders to the White House four times in two days to try to reach agreement on government spending and avert a partial government shutdown.

With only a few hours left until the current budget resolution expires, Democrats and Republicans cannot even seem to agree on what remaining issues they still disagree on.

Speaking on the Senate floor, Democratic Majority leader Harry Reid said Republicans are insisting that there be no public health funding for Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest reproductive heath care provider, which provides abortion counseling.

"Republicans want to shut down our nation's government because they want to make it harder for women to get the health services they need," said Reid.

Planned Parenthood provides cancer screening and other health services to low income women.

Senator Reid targeted socially-conservative "Tea Party" Republicans as being mainly responsible for the current stalemate.

"But now, the Tea Party, among others, but they are the biggest push, is trying to move its extreme social agenda issues that have nothing to do with funding the government," he said. "They are willing, it appears, clearly, to throw women under the bus [sacrifice women's issues] even if it means they will shut down the government. Because that is where we are. That is the one issue that was remaining last night," said Reid.

For his part, Republican House Speaker John Boehner denied that policy directives on social issues that Republicans have attached to the spending bill are the only sticking point.

"There is only one reason that we do not have an agreement as yet, and that issue is spending," said Boehner. "We are close to a resolution on the policy issues. But I think the American people deserve to know, when will the White House and when will Senate Democrats get serious about cutting spending?"

Boehner again called on the Democratic-controlled Senate to pass a stopgap, one-week spending bill that would require $12 billion in cuts that the Republican-controlled House passed Thursday. Reid has rejected it outright, and President Obama has said he would veto it.

With conflicting narratives on what the current fight is all about, the clock is running for a partial government shutdown.

If lawmakers fail to agree, some government services would be disrupted starting Saturday. About 800,000 of 1.9 million federal employees would be furloughed, and combat troops would not be paid until a budget is passed. President Obama has warned that a shutdown would hurt the country's economic recovery.

Some analysts say neither Democrats nor Republicans want to be viewed as the party that gave in on this budget fight, because even larger budget fights are still to come.

The current battle is over the 2011 fiscal budget, which only has six months left.

Once it is resolved, lawmakers will have to focus on the 2012 budget, and on a crucial vote to extend the national debt ceiling, expected sometime in the next couple of months.