WASHINGTON – As the budget stalemate lingered, President Barack Obama reached out Saturday to House Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., urging them to reach a resolution that would avoid a government shutdown, the White House said.
In separate phone calls, the president told the two congressional leaders that a closure would be harmful “to our economic recovery,” according to a description of the conversation released by the White House.
The announcement of the president’s direct intervention marked a slight shift in White House strategy in the fight over a plan to fund the government for the rest of 2011. Until now, Vice President Joe Biden and budget director Jacob Lew had taken the public lead on attempting to broker a deal between House Republicans and Senate Democrats, while the president kept more distance from the fray.
But the window in which to reach a deal before a disruption in government operations is closing quickly. The current spending plan expires on Friday, giving leaders just a few days to agree on and pass a deal or convince the rank and file to pass another stopgap measure while talks continue.
The president said he was encouraged by an agreement to reduce spending by roughly $73 billion from his proposed budget – $33 billion from current spending levels. Democrats have repeatedly cited that number, while Republicans say no such deal has been made.
“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 Saturday.
Boehner has been careful not to appear to be jumping too quickly into deal-making mode after an election in which many Republicans railed against Washington’s backroom maneuvers and split-the-baby approach.
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