President Obama takes a question during a news conference at the White House… (Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg )
Reporting from Washington — Declaring "we don't have time for games," President Obama said Tuesday that it would be "inexcusable" for lawmakers to let politics stand in the way of a budget compromise that is well within reach.
In an unannounced appearance in the White House press briefing room after an Oval Office meeting with congressional leaders, Obama said Democrats have already agreed to cuts well beyond the GOP's initial proposal, but that he was nonetheless committed to further negotiations to reach a final deal to fund government operations through the end of the fiscal year.
"Nobody gets 100% of what they want, and we have more than met the Republicans halfway at this point," he said. "We are now closer than we have ever been to get an agreement. There's no reason why we should not get an agreement."
Obama also warned that a government shutdown would threaten the nation's economic recovery.
"The last thing we need is a disruption that's caused by a government shutdown, not to mention all the people who depend on government services," he said. "You don't want delays, you don't want disruptions just because of the usual politics in Washington."
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) will meet with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) later Tuesday. If no deal is struck then, Obama called on lawmakers to return for more talks at the White House on Wednesday.
At competing news conferences on Capitol Hill just after Obama spoke with reporters, Boehner and Reid indicated the challenge still facing lawmakers.
"We've made clear that were fighting for the largest spending cuts possible -- we're talking about real spending cuts not smoke and mirrors," Boehner said.
"I'm not very optimistic," Reid said. "The 'tea party' is driving what goes on in the House of Representatives and we cannot do what they want done."
House Republicans say their preference is to move legislation funding the government for the remainder of the 2011 fiscal year, but without a deal they are prepared to offer yet another short-term extension -- this time just one week -- to avoid a shutdown.
That bill is essentially a non-starter in the Senate, however, and Reid said the president told him there would be no further short-term measures to extend negotiations.
The president did tell reporters, however, that he would allow for an extension of "two or three days" if a deal is reached later this week but legislation cannot be passed by the Friday deadline. With greater challenges ahead, Obama urged Congress to act quickly.
"We can't control earthquakes, we can't control tsunamis, we can't control uprisings on the other side of the world. What we can control is our capacity to have a reasoned, fair conversation between the parties and get the business of the American people done. And that's what I expect," Obama said.