Andrew Taylor, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Talks are intensifying on Capitol Hill on reaching a deal on long-overdue legislation to finance the government through the end of September — and avoid a government shutdown. Whether a shutdown can be avoided in three days' time is another matter.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Senate's No. 3 Democrat, claimed "a glimmer of hope" Wednesday morning, based on late-night negotiations between Senate Democrats and House Republicans.
The White House was said to be trying to assess the extent of progress, if any, before setting up another meeting like the one President Barack Obama hosted on Tuesday. A White House official said an Obama-led meeting could happen Wednesday, if necessary, and that his trip to Pennsylvania would not interfere with it.
Appearing on a network morning news show, Schumer said "some progress was made" in talks late Tuesday and said "we've met the other side more than half way" at $33 billion in proposed cuts.
But the New York Democrat also said that if talks collapse and a government shutdown happens, it will be the tea party's fault. He said tea party-backed Republicans in the House "have demanded that cuts be in a very small portion of the budget," such as cancer research, student aid and public broadcasting.
He said tea party Republicans "have an ideology to just get rid of all government," regardless of whether programs are working.
Tuesday's White House meeting involving Obama, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., failed to produce the hoped-for breakthrough, however, with a stopgap government funding bill set to expire Friday at midnight.
Obama ratcheted up the pressure afterward, sounding exasperated with Republicans for not warming to a White House proposal that matched, more or less, an earlier GOP framework proposed in February. In it, Democrats propose cuts netting $73 billion in savings below Obama's original requests — or $33 billion below current spending levels.
Boehner said yet again that there is no agreement on a level of spending cuts. And there's been little progress on the 50-plus GOP policy "riders" dotting the House version of the measure.
"There's no reason why we should not get an agreement," Obama said. "We have now matched the number that the speaker originally sought. The only question is whether politics or ideology are going to get in the way of preventing a government shutdown."
Talks also took place Tuesday between Boehner and Reid at the Capitol, with both sides reporting a productive discussion.