Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) emerged from their second meeting Thursday with President Barack Obama without an agreement to avert a government shutdown.
Obama told reporters after the meeting that progress had been made but that work remains on negotiating a spending measure to cover the rest of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. Stopgap funding for the government runs out Friday night, and many federal services will grind to a halt without a deal.
“What I’ve said to the Speaker and what I’ve said to Harry Reid is because the machinery of the shutdown is necessarily starting to move, I expect an answer in the morning. And my hope is, is that I’ll be able to announce to the American people sometime relatively early in the day that a shutdown has been averted,” Obama said at the news conference. The president postponed a trip to Indianapolis that he had scheduled for Friday, the White House announced late Thursday, but another planned trip to Williamsburg, Va., was still possible.
How realistic that deadline is remains to be seen. Boehner has been adamant that any agreement should be able to garner the 218 GOP votes to pass it, and he won’t cut a deal with Reid and Obama until he has vetted it with his members. The earliest he could do so is at a planned Conference meeting at noon Friday.
In a terse joint statement, the two Congressional leaders said: “We have narrowed the issues, however, we have not yet reached an agreement. We will continue to work through the night to attempt to resolve our remaining differences.”
In his remarks, Obama acknowledged that the meeting was productive.
“We made some progress today. Those differences have been narrowed. And so once again the staff is going to be working tonight, around the clock, in order to see if we can finally close the deal,” he said.
“But there is still a few issues that are outstanding. They’re difficult issues. They’re important to both sides. And so I’m not yet prepared to express wild optimism,” he added.
Speaking on the Senate floor after the meeting, Reid said he was “not very hopeful” but was “optimistic.”
Obama also stressed the economic stakes in the negotiations and warned that a shutdown could hurt the recovery.
“For us to go backwards because Washington couldn’t get its act together is unacceptable,” he said.
With just more than 24 hours before a government shutdown, the two sides remained divided on a handful of issues, including the overall size of reductions to federal spending, where those cuts will come from and GOP demands to include a host of controversial policy riders.
The two sides are fairly close in terms of the overall level of cuts, with negotiations reportedly centering on reductions between $35 billion and $40 billion. But the two sides are sharply divided over where to make the cuts. While the GOP insists on making cuts to discretionary domestic spending, Democrats have pushed for reductions to mandatory spending accounts.
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.