Huffpost Politics

Obama Urges Lawmakers To Reach Budget Agreement To Avert Government Shutdown

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OBAMA GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama pressed the House and Senate leaders Saturday to agree to a budget in time to avert what he says would be an economically harmful government shutdown, but restated his opposition to certain spending cuts and other provisions insisted upon by Republicans.

Obama delivered the message in separate telephone conversations with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., the White House said.

Negotiations continued Saturday on a bill to fund government operations through Sept. 30, the end of the budget year. They have zeroed in on cuts in the $33 billion range, but haven't agreed on where to make them.

Government funding expires at midnight Friday. Much of the government would shut down without a new budget in place.

Complicating matters from the White House view are non-spending provisions that Republicans want to put in the budget to block the Environmental Protection Agency from implementing regulations on various industries and ban funding for Planned Parenthood.

Obama told the leaders that he opposes using the budget process to "further an ideological agenda" by pursuing issues that aren't related to reducing spending or the deficit, the White House said. Obama also said he objects to cuts that would undermine economic growth and job creation.

He said shutting the government would hurt the economy just as it's beginning to create jobs. On Friday, the government reported that the unemployment rate had fallen to a two-year low of 8.8 percent in March and that the economy added 216,000 jobs last month.

After keeping a low profile and delegating the negotiating to Vice President Joe Biden, his budget director and other White House aides, Obama has begun to press publicly for a deal as this latest deadline nears. He has signed several short-term spending bills to keep the government in business.

He said Friday that compromise was within reach.

But Boehner said Saturday in the weekly Republican address, recorded before he spoke with the president, that "there is no agreement. Republicans continue to fight for the largest spending cuts possible." Boehner is being squeezed by his desire to avoid a government shutdown and demands by conservative tea party Republicans in the House for even steeper spending cuts.

A spokesman said Saturday that Boehner's position had not changed.

"The speaker reminded the president that there is no 'deal' or agreement on a final number and he will continue to push for the largest possible spending cuts," said spokesman Brendan Buck.

Reid's spokesman Jon Summers said Democrats were "hopeful Republicans will work with us on responsible cuts that won't harm our fragile economic recovery."

Negotiations were to continue through the weekend.

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