White House efforts to bring Congressional leaders together Thursday to kick off bipartisan budget talks are already hitting a wall: GOP leaders are signaling they won’t be there.
Democratic sources said Wednesday night that White House officials, led by Vice President Joseph Biden, and Democratic leaders had agreed to meet Thursday afternoon in a Senate room to begin talks on a budget blueprint aimed at keeping the government funded for the rest of the fiscal year.
An aide with knowledge of the meeting said it is set for 4 p.m.
But GOP leadership aides suggested that their bosses have no plans to attend until Senate Democrats produce a spending plan of their own.
“The White House is talking about a meeting, but as of now, nothing is scheduled. I do know that such a meeting would be more productive if Democrats had a plan for cutting Washington spending and keeping the government running through the end of the fiscal year,” said Don Stewart, spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
“As you know, Senate Democrats still haven’t offered a plan of any kind, so Republicans offered a two-week bill that reduced Washington spending by $4 billion. That’s a step in the right direction and gives Senate Democrats two more weeks to present their ideas,” Stewart added.
Brendan Buck, spokesman to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), gave a similar response.
“Nothing scheduled yet,” Buck said after being asked repeatedly whether Boehner will attend the meeting.
President Barack Obama announced Wednesday that he is dispatching Biden, White House Chief of Staff William Daley and Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew to “begin meeting immediately” with Hill leaders to sort out a spending plan for the rest of the fiscal year. His announcement came within minutes of the Senate passing House Republicans’ two-week stopgap continuing resolution to keep the government funded past Friday.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.