With reporting by Jon Ward
WASHINGTON -- A government shutdown is beginning to look inevitable, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid warned Thursday morning, charging that Republicans are holding up a deal over ideological issues.
He also mocked a would-be stopgap measure moving the House as a "fantasy" and a "non-starter."
"The numbers are basically there," Reid (D-Nev.) said in a Senate floor statement. "But I am not nearly as optimistic -- and that's an understatement -- as I was 11 hours ago."
"If this government shuts down, and it looks like it's headed in that direction, it's going to be based on my friends in the House of Representatives ... focusing on ideological matters that have nothing to do with funding this government," Reid charged.
He said that the GOP was insisting on attaching riders targeting abortion and clean air regulations that should be dealt with in regular legislation.
"It's not realistic to shut down the government on a debate dealing with abortion," Reid said. "It's not fair to the American people."
Boehner's office told The Huffington Post that the Democratic spin was "not true", and that policy riders on abortion and other matters were not the only sticking point.
"There is no agreement on spending cuts or policy," said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel.
However, Boehner's office would not disclose how close or far apart the two sides are on spending cut negotiations, but a GOP leadership aide said the gap was not significant.
"I don't think they're that far, but the gap has not been bridged," the GOP aide said.
But they would not say what else was at issue, and sent out an e-mail defending the inclusion of a rider that would ban taxpayer-funded abortion in Washington D.C., saying Democrats including Vice President Joe Biden have voted for such a measure before.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kent.) said the House Republicans' one-week stopgap would cut $12 billion and fund the military, and he argued that if the Senate didn't pass it, the shutdown is the fault of Democrats.
"If a shutdown does occur, our Democratic friends will have no one to blame but themselves," McConnell said, accusing the Democrats of failing to offer their own alternative. "This is the only proposal on the table that will keep the government open."
Reid scoffed at the short-term plan, noting Democrats have rejected, and the Presdent repeated that Thursday morning in a chat with House Speaker John Boehner.
"It's a non-starter over here," Reid said. "Doing that is an assured way to close the government... It's not only bad policy. It's a fantasy."
Reid and Boehner met with the President for nearly two hours Wednesday night trying to bridge the divide, and were heading back again this afternoon at 1 pm.