POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Apr 5, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 9:08 a.m. HST, Apr 5, 2011
WASHINGTON >> President Barack Obama, showing growing impatience, said Tuesday it would be "inexcusable" for lawmakers to fail to fund the government through the end of the year and cause a shutdown.
"We are closer than we have ever been to an agreement. There is no reason why we should not get an agreement," Obama said following a White House meeting with congressional leaders.
Appearing before reporters at the White House, Obama said that House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid were to meet on Capitol Hill later Tuesday to continue negotiations. If that meeting does not produce an agreement, Obama said he would summon the pair back to the White House Wednesday.
"Myself, Joe Biden, my team — we are prepared to meet for as long as possible to get this resolved," Obama said.
Boehner, in a televised appearance right after Obama, said Republicans also want to avoid a government shutdown but also want to achieve the largest spending cuts that are possible. "We believe cutting spending will help us create jobs in America," he said.
Earlier Tuesday after meeting with Obama, Boehner had said there was no deal with the White House and Democrats. And he warned that House Republicans "will not be put in a box" of accepting options they refuse to endorse.
Boehner has proposed an agreement that would keep the government running for one more week and slash another $12 billion in spending. Boehner has already orchestrated action by Congress to pass a pair of stopgap bills, so far cutting $10 billion from an estimated $1.2 trillion budget to fund the day-to-day operations of government through Sept. 30.
Obama said he would only accept another short-term funding extension, of two or three days, in order to get a longer-term deal through Congress. But he ruled out a longer extension to allow negotiations to continue.
"That is not a way to run a government. I cannot have our agencies making plans based on two week budgets," Obama said. "What we are not going to do is once again put off something that should have been done months ago."
Obama also said the budget should not be used to also attach policy measures that aim to limit abortions or that seek to curtail environmental protection regulations. He said that there was a legitimate debate to be had about resolving questions of the long-term debt and deficit and social safety net programs. "Right now what we're talking about is six months remaining" on the budget for the current fiscal year, he said.
The White House maintains that lawmakers from both parties have been working off a target number — $33 billion more in cuts — for days. But Boehner has publicly denied any such agreement, saying in his statement that the $33 billion "is not enough." He said House Republicans won't be boxed into accepting either a shutdown or a legislative deal that fails to make enough spending cuts.