Written by Andrew Taylor, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Short of a deal, congressional leaders bargained and squabbled by turns Thursday on legislation to cut spending and prevent a partial government shutdown that loomed for Friday at midnight.
After all-night talks among aides, President Barack Obama summoned Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. to the White House meeting for the second time in a little over 12 hours.
Before departing the Capitol, Boehner urged the House to pass legislation to cut $12 billion, fund the Pentagon through the end of the year and keep the government running for a week. "There is absolutely no policy reason for the Senate to not follow the House in taking these responsible steps to support our troops and to keep our government open," he said.
At the same time, he accused the White House of backsliding, adding that there hadn't been as much progress as it appeared after a late-night White House meeting. "It's really just more of the same. We're going to have real spending cuts. I don't know what some people don't understand about this," he said.
Reid said otherwise, although he, too, made it clear he wants to avoid a shutdown that the White House says would cause problems for combat troops overseas and delay IRS refunds for taxpayers at home.
"The issue is ideology, not numbers," he said, criticizing Republican proposals to limit the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency and a prohibition of the use of federal or local funds to pay for most abortions in the District of Columbia.
"These matters have no place on a budget bill," he said.
Obama has expressed opposition to the week-long interim measure, and Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., said the president would veto it. It's unlikely to get that far -- Reid has labeled it a non-starter, as well.
Despite Reid's assertion that the two sides had largely agreed on spending cuts, Boehner said partial agreements were not possible.
It was unclear how much the talks had narrowed the differences on spending. Boehner recently floated $40 billion, more than the $33 that the negotiators had adopted as a framework, but less than the $61 that was contained in a bill the House cleared than six weeks ago.