Biden Mum on Budget Meeting, Says Talks Will Continue

Posted March 3, 2011 at 5:33pm

A meeting Thursday between Congressional leaders and Vice President Joseph Biden to resolve the dispute over funding the government for the rest of the fiscal year ended with a pledge to keep negotiating.

“We had a good meeting, and the conversation will continue,” Biden said in a short statement.

Other leaders present for Thursday’s discussion — Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — did not comment about the meeting, which lasted a little more than an hour at the Capitol.

“Vice President Biden will put out a statement,” said Don Stewart, spokesman for McConnell. “We are not going to put out a statement.”

Democrats and the White House have talked about being open to making $6 billion in unspecified cuts in a spending bill covering the remainder of fiscal 2011. When added to $41 billion in cuts in a continuing resolution that expires Friday, plus $4 billion in cuts in a two-week stopgap that President Barack Obama signed Wednesday, the Democrats are on board for about $50 billion in reductions from Obama’s fiscal 2011 budget request.

But House Republicans are seeking to reduce spending to $100 billion less than Obama’s request, and the $6 billion offer wasn’t striking Republicans as serious.

“That’ll pay for two months of interest on the stimulus bill,” Stewart said.

Republicans have also complained about Democrats taking credit for the $41 billion in cuts, because the figure represents a reduction from Obama’s fiscal 2011 budget request, which was never enacted, and not from current spending.

The Republicans instead point to a House-passed continuing resolution that would keep the government funded for the remainder of fiscal 2011. That measure, which was authored by House Republicans, would cut $61 billion from current spending levels, which are based on fiscal 2010 spending. Reid has labeled the bill as a non-starter.

The two-week stopgap spending bill was enacted to keep the government from shutting down while lawmakers negotiate a longer-term measure. Obama dispatched Biden, White House Chief of Staff William Daley and Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew to work with Hill leaders on a deal.