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Reid, GOP Senators Believe Shutdown Can Be Avoided

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was optimistic Sunday that Congressional leaders will be able to strike a deal this week on a fiscal 2011 spending bill and avoid a government shutdown.

“I always look at the glass being half full. I think we can work this out,” the Nevada Democrat said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “It’s so easy to do. ... It’s a question of how we do it.”

Reid and White House officials have been trying to cut a deal with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year and keep the government running past April 8, when the current stopgap funding measure expires. House Republicans have endorsed a measure making $61 billion in cuts from spending levels in effect early this year, but that proposal was a non-starter in the Senate, where Democratic leaders object to cuts that they say would harm middle-class families, as well as to policy riders.

Vice President Joseph Biden said last week that negotiators had agreed to $33 billion in cuts in the final continuing resolution, or $73 billion below President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2011 budget request. Negotiators still need to work out where and how to cut the $33 billion, Biden said.

“We’ve agreed on a number. Let’s work to get that number done,” Reid said Sunday.

However, Boehner informed Obama in a phone call Saturday that nothing has been finalized.

“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,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said.

And Senate Budget ranking member Jeff Sessions said Sunday that he was not aware that any progress had been made, although he said he doubted there would be a government shutdown.

“Mr. Boehner, the Speaker, has indicated that he has not reached an agreement. So has Mitch McConnell, the [Senate] Republican leader. So I think that negotiations continue and they need to continue,” the Alabama Republican said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Reid urged Boehner to spare programs that benefit middle-class and lower-income people. Senate Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer recommended Sunday that negotiators expand their scope from cutting discretionary spending to making changes in mandatory program spending.

“We’ve offered about $10 billion of those to our Republican colleagues. They’re not adverse to them. ... And I believe that’s how we can come to an agreement that both keeps job growth and cuts the deficit at about the $33 billion level. And I believe that’s where we’ll end up,” the New York Democrat said on “This Week.”

Reid also accused the tea party of “dictating a lot that goes on in the Republican leadership in the House” and urged Boehner to resist pressure from the right.

“The Republican leadership in the House has to make a decision: Will they want to do the right thing for the country or the right thing for the tea party?” he said.

Sen. Lindsey Graham said he, too, was hopeful that a shutdown could be avoided, in part because he predicted that fiscally conservative Democrats would vote for hefty spending cuts for political reasons.

“I think we’ll get together,” the South Carolina Republican said on “Face the Nation.” “I think there are a lot of red state Democrats who do not want to take this fight any further. They do want to be seen as reducing spending. ... I think we’ll find common ground. There are enough Democrats out there who understand they need to be on the right side of reducing the federal government, and we’ll find a number that we all can agree on.”

House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan pointed out that the House passed the continuing resolution with $61 billion in cuts in February, while the Senate has yet to pass its own spending bill.

“We don’t want to shut the government down. ... We passed our legislation to prevent a government shutdown and cut spending,” the Wisconsin Republican said on “Fox News Sunday.”

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