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Obama Not Optimistic on Budget Negotiations

President Obama speaks at the White House, April 7, 2011 on the budget negotiations
President Obama speaks at the White House, April 7, 2011 on the budget negotiations

U.S. President Barack Obama says he and top lawmakers from both political parties have made progress on negotiations to end a budget deadlock, but he says difficult issues remain just one day before government funding is due to run out.

Mr. Obama told reporters Thursday night he is not ready to express "wild optimism" that there will be a solution before the government is forced to shut down. He did not specify which issues are still not resolved. His remarks followed a meeting between between the president, Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican House Speaker John Boehner.

It was their fourth meeting in three days and part of around-the-clock negotiations aimed at creating a spending plan through the end of the government's fiscal year in September. If Congress fails to pass a budget by midnight Friday, most of the government will have to shut down.

Mr. Obama reiterated comments that a shutdown would hurt the country's economic recovery, and said it would be "unacceptable" for that to happen because, in his words, "Washington couldn't get itself together."

Republicans and Democrats disagree about how much and where to cut spending. They also are stuck on several policy issues backed by Tea Party supporters in the Republican Party, such as barring government payments to abortion providers and restricting administration efforts to regulation greenhouse gases.

Ahead of Thursday night's meeting, Democrat Reid said he was "not optimistic" there would be an agreement. Another Democrat, Senator Chuck Schumer, said earlier in the day that negotiators had reached a consensus on spending cuts, but the abortion and environment issues that, he said, "have nothing to do with the deficit" are the real problem.

Republican Boehner said there is disagreement on many issues, and that no deal had been reached yet on the size of the budget cuts.

Reid accused Tea Party supporters of trying to enact an "extreme agenda" in pushing for limits on abortion rights in the U.S., and a curb on enforcement of environmental laws. He said Democrats would willingly debate these issues in separate legislation, but that they do not belong in the budget plan.

The House of Representatives on Thursday passed a Republican proposal for a one-week spending extension to keep the government running beyond Friday. Senate Majority Leader Reid said he opposes that bill, calling it a "non-starter." The White House says President Obama will veto it, if it makes it to his desk.

The White House said Mr. Obama would support a clean, short-term funding measure to allow for enactment of a final bill covering the remaining six months of the fiscal year.