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Boehner signals reluctance about shutdown

'Americans want the government to stay open,' the House speaker says. Meanwhile, a Democratic senator indicates that a Republican spending plan could lead to a temporary agreement.

February 28, 2011|By Tom Hamburger, Washington Bureau

Reporting from Washington — House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) told a convention of religious broadcasters in Nashville on Sunday evening that a federal government shutdown was not appropriate and not what the electorate wanted.

His remarks were the latest sign that congressional leaders were backing away from the brink of a shutdown.

"Americans want the government to stay open, and they want it to spend less money," Boehner said. "We don't need to shut down the government to accomplish that. We just need to do what the American people are asking of us."

He cited "the moral responsibility" to reduce the federal deficit and cut government largesse while keeping the government open, but he said Congress also had a responsibility to address Social Security and Medicare spending.

Also Sunday, Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota told CNN's "State of the Union" that Republicans' latest proposal for an interim spending plan seemed likely to lead to an agreement on temporarily funding the government.

"It is acceptable to me to have $4 billion in savings in a two-week package," said Conrad, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, referring to cuts in the stopgap spending measure that House Republican leaders offered late last week. "That negotiation is ongoing, and I'm confident we'll achieve conclusion on that."

Lawmakers return from a weeklong congressional recess Tuesday. The continuing resolution that funds the government expires at midnight Friday.

Earlier, Democrats and Republicans deadlocked over a GOP plan that would cut $61 billion in spending this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. That plan passed the Republican-controlled House, but Democrats say the cuts are too steep. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) offered a spending freeze while lawmakers debated further cuts; Republicans rejected that idea.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, told CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday that a government shutdown was not a wise way to proceed "unless that's the only way to forward your principles."

"Their job is to solve these problems and not just to stand in the corner and hold their breath," Christie said. "So — and I say that about both sides — so let's get together. They've got a week to figure it out."

tom.hamburger@latimes.com

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