President Barack Obama on Saturday finally waded into the fight over a six-month spending bill, calling the top Democrat and Republican on Capitol Hill to discuss the status of negotiations.
Over the last several weeks, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Vice President Joseph Biden and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) have been slowly zeroing in on a deal that would include $33 billion in cuts.
But Obama has largely stayed out of the continuing resolution talks, despite mounting pressure from Republicans and Democrats to become more engaged. Saturday’s calls marked his most active role in the talks to date, and it comes with less than a week to go before an April 8 deadline to avoid a government shutdown.
According to the White House, in separate calls to the House and Senate leaders Obama urged them to wrap up work on the deal, acknowledging that it must include significant reductions in spending. But Obama also reiterated his opposition to the inclusion of policy riders on abortion and other issues. Those provisions are one of the last remaining sticking issues and are a top priority of conservatives and the tea party movement.
Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said Congress’ top Republican reiterated his public insistence that no deal has been cut and that he will continue pushing for deep reductions in spending.
“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,” Steel said.
The calls come as Boehner finds himself under increasing pressure — not only from conservatives but from Members of his own leadership team — to hold the line on forcing deeper cuts than the $33 billion that have formed the basis of the negotiations in recent days.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.