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Obama calls meeting with Boehner, Reid over budget impasse

The House speaker and Senate majority leader are expected to meet with the president Wednesday night in an effort to avoid a government shutdown.

April 06, 2011|By James Oliphant, Washington Bureau
  • President Obama speaks at a town hall on Wednesday hosted by a technology company in Fairless Hills, Pa.
President Obama speaks at a town hall on Wednesday hosted by a technology… (William Thomas Cain / Getty…)

Reporting from Washington —  

Dissatisfied with progress being made in talks to avert a government shutdown, President Obama has convened a Wednesday evening meeting at the White House with House Speaker John A. Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Boehner and Reid are scheduled to meet with Obama and Vice President Joe Biden at a negotiation session expected to begin at 8:45 p.m., after the president returns from New York City. A similar meeting Tuesday produced little results.

Obama's move came late in a day when both the president and Boehner blamed each other over the impending government shutdown, and as time for a deal came closer to running out.

If an accord on a budget for the current fiscal year is not reached by midnight Friday,the government will run out of money, workers will be furloughed, and much of the federal bureaucracy machinery will grind to a halt.

Earlier in the day, Obama warned that a shutdown could derail the economic recovery and harm small business owners and families, and accused Republicans of injecting politics into a "debate about how we pay our bills."

If an accord on the budget for the current fiscal year isn't reached by the end of the week, That will mean, Obama noted by way of example, that small business owners won't be able to obtain federal loan assistance, and families planning a trip to a national park such as Yellowstone will be out of luck.

"All because of politics," Obama said during an energy-themed "town hall" in Eastern Pennsylvania.

Meanwhile, in Washington, House Republicans said they would put forward for a vote Thursday a temporary funding measure that would keep the government open for a week and would fund the Pentagon for the remainder of the fiscal year. Democrats have already rejected the proposal because the stopgap also contains $12 billion in further cuts, which they view as extreme — and it appeared unlikely the Senate would take it up if it passes. Still, the House is expected to style it as a "troop funding" bill in an effort to further pressure senators.

At an afternoon news conference, Boehner said congressional talks remained ongoing; he did not suggest any agreement was imminent.

"We're going to fight for the largest spending cuts we can get," he said.

At the "clean" energy event, held at a wind-turbine facility in Fairless Hills, Pa., Obama squarely blamed the GOP for the budget impasse. While pushing for even deeper cuts beyond the $33 billion already agreed to by Democrats, House Republicans have also insisted on the inclusion of several provisions that defund targets of conservative ire, such as Obama's healthcare initiative, NPR and Planned Parenthood.

"They're stuffing all kinds of issues in there: abortion, the environment, healthcare," the president told a crowd of several hundred workers at a wind-turbine plant. "You know, there are times to have those discussions. But that time is not now."

Obama intimated, as have Biden and other Democratic leaders on the Hill, that Boehner had agreed to a compromise, but was facing too much pressure from conservative members of the House to strike a final agreement. He noted that the White House had already agreed to greater cuts in the fiscal year 2011 budget than the House originally had requested.

"I've got some Democrats mad at me," Obama said. "We've agreed on a compromise but somehow we still don't have a deal."

Clearly trying to stay above the fray, Obama echoed remarks he made a day earlier, saying, "We want everyone to act like adults. Quit playing games."

He asked how many in attendance are married.

"When was the last time you just got your way? That's not the way it works," the president said. "The fact is, you have to make compromises — as a family. That's what we are, the American family."

But Boehner and other Republicans similarly accused Obama of playing politics — and they called the Pennsylvania trip a campaign event.

"Our president has failed to lead," Boehner said.

In a closed-door session with Republicans on Wednesday, Boehner received an overwhelming show of support from his colleagues, and at one point choked up as they applauded.

joliphant@latimes.com

Christi Parsons, Lisa Mascaro and Peter Nicholas in the Washington bureau contributed to this report.

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