WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama said late-night budget talks with the leaders of Congress have helped matters but there was no deal yet to cut spending and avert a shutdown a partial government shutdown on Friday.
Obama spoke after a hastily arranged late-evening meeting in at the White House with Republican leader of the House of Representatives, Speaker John Boehner, and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The three met for roughly and hour and 15 minutes.
The session itself underscored the stakes of the deepening political fight as time grew short.
Lawmakers need to reach a deal before a temporary government funding bill is set to expire Friday at midnight. At issue is legislation needed to keep the day-to-day operations of federal agencies going through the end of the budget year.
The budget measure has become the biggest clash yet between Obama’s Democratic Party and Republicans who won control of the House last year by promising to slash spending and bring the U.S. deficit under control.
Determined to avoid political blame if a shutdown occurs, Boehner said the House would vote Thursday on a one-week stopgap bill to keep the government open while cutting $12 billion in spending and providing the Pentagon with enough money to stay open until the Sept. 30 end of the budget year.
“I think this is the responsible thing to do for the U.S. Congress, and I would hope the Senate can pass it and the president can sign it into law,” he said.
He also criticized Obama, though saying he likes the commander in chief personally. “The president isn’t leading,” Boehner said. “He didn’t lead on last year’s budget, and he’s not leading on this year’s budget.”
Obama spokesman Jay Carney said the president acted after deciding “not enough progress had been made.” Obama has already ruled out the weeklong measure Republicans intend to push through the House, and Senate Democrats have labeled it a non-starter.
White House officials said there would be consequences of a shutdown. They said military personnel at home and abroad would receive one week’s pay instead of two in their next checks. Among those affected would be troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and the region around Libya.
Income tax returns, required to be filed by April 18, would pile up at the tax office, and refunds would be delayed as a result.
National parks would close, as would the Smithsonian Institution and its world-class collection of museums.
A House-passed measure called for $61 billion in cuts, and until recently, the two sides had been working on a framework for $33 billion. Boehner pronounced that insufficient on Tuesday, and floated a $40 billion figure instead.