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Biden says deal reached on cuts

Thu., March 31, 2011

Details may derail final agreement

WASHINGTON – Congressional budget negotiators have agreed to $23 billion in additional spending cuts for the rest of the 2011 fiscal year, Vice President Joe Biden said late Wednesday, but details of the reductions still could thwart a deal.

Combined with $10 billion in cuts made already through stopgap spending measures, the deal potentially represents $33 billion in reductions from the 2011 budget and would represent one of the largest such cuts in history.

Biden has been presiding over negotiations to prevent a government shutdown next week, when funds from the latest temporary spending measure run out.

“We’re all working off the same number now,” Biden said after emerging from closed-door talks off the Senate floor. “Obviously, there’s a difference in the composition of that number – what’s included, what’s not included. It’s going to be a thorough negotiation.”

Nonetheless, a spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, said that no agreement had been reached. Republicans have been fighting not only for a higher level of cuts but also for inclusion of their hot-button policy priorities, such as defunding Planned Parenthood and President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.

“There is no deal until everything is settled – spending cuts and policy restrictions,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said.

Biden said he spoke with Boehner and the two agreed the details would be key.

“It’s the same as our position, Biden said. “There is no deal until there’s a total deal.”

Negotiators will meet again this morning.

Word of a possible budget settlement comes as the GOP faces fierce conservative pressure not to compromise. Tea party activists plan to descend on the Capitol today for a rally.

Biden said although negotiators from both sides had accepted the overall figure for spending cuts, details of the cuts still need to be determined.

Biden arrived at the Capitol late Wednesday, along with White House budget director Jacob Lew, for a closed-door meeting with Democratic leaders in chambers off the Senate floor.

The overall 2011 cut of $33 billion is about halfway between the $61 billion that House Republicans proposed in February and what Democrats proposed.

Earlier Wednesday, Boehner demanded that the Democratic-controlled Senate pass its own budget plan so negotiations could continue.


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