Government shutdown more likely, Harry Reid warns; Obama summons leaders back to the White House

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev. speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 5, 2011.
AP Photo/Susan Walsh
Harry Reid
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev. speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 5, 2011.
AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Updated at 1 p.m. ET

With just 38 hours left to act, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid warned today that he thinks Washington leaders won't be able avoid a government shutdown.

"I am not nearly as optimistic -- and that's an understatement -- as I was 11 hours ago," Reid said on the Senate floor Thursday morning.

In a press conference later in the day, Reid was asked whether he's now questioning House Speaker John Boehner's interest in actually reaching a deal. Reid responded, "Yes, I am."

On the House floor today, Boehner said, "We all know that no one wants a shut down." However, in his own press conference later in the day, the speaker said they were closer to an agreement Wednesday than they are today.

Reid, Boehner and President Obama met for close to two hours late Wednesday night to try to hash out a budget agreement to cover the next six months of federal spending. Yet progress remains stalled, so Mr. Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have summoned the Democratic Senate leader and the Republican speaker to the White House for another meeting at 1 p.m. this afternoon.

Reid said today that all parties have agreed to certain level of spending cuts and that the negotiations are stalled over policy riders that Republicans want to add to the bill, such as a provision to strip government funding for abortion providers and a provision related to the Environmental Protection Agency.

"The only thing holding up an agreement is ideology," Reid said. "I'm sorry to say... that my friend the speaker and the Republican leadership have drawn a line in the sand."

"We can't resolve in a night a disagreement this country's been fighting for four decades," Reid said with respect to abortion rights.

An aide for Boehner tells CBS News Senior Political Producer Jill Jackson that Reid's assertion that the negotiations are stalled over policy riders is false. There is no agreement on spending cuts or policy, the aide said.

Another GOP aide also said there are disagreements over spending cuts. The aide said Reid wants to gut defense and security spending to pay for domestic priorities such as operations in the Labor and Health and Human Services departments. The White House, meanwhile, has maintained that it is only asking for defense spending cuts already agreed to by Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

"There is no agreement on a number," Boehner said in his press conference today. "In fact, I think we were closer to a number last night than we are this morning. There are a number of issues on the table, and any attempt to narrow it down to one or two just would not be accurate."

At the Democratic press conference today, senators insisted that the hang up did come down to two policy issues -- not spending cuts.

"When the speaker says there's no agreement on the cuts, it doesn't mean we're far apart -- he just isn't ready to say so yet," Sen. Chuck Schumer said. "We pretty much have a consensus on the level of cuts and where they should come from."

If an agreement is not reached by Friday evening, some federal operations and services will stop running.

Leaders in both parties have said they do not want to pass any more short-term spending measures (Congress has passed two already, which have already cut $10 billion from this year's spending), but with negotiations stalled over the long-term spending measure, the House today plans to vote on a one-week spending measure that would cut an additional $12 billion. The one-week measure would also fund the military for the remainder of the fiscal year and includes a policy rider to prohibit direct spending on abortion services in Washington, D.C.

Republicans say their latest short-term measure must be passed in order to fund troops and keep the government running and blame Democrats for failing to produce their own short-term alternative.

"This is the only proposal out there that keep the government open," Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor today. "If the shutdown does occur, our Democratic friends have no one to blame but themselves."

Reid said of the short-term measure, "It's not only bad policy, it's a fantasy. This is a non-starter in the Senate."

He said Mr. Obama called Boehner earlier this morning to tell him the same thing. "We can't keep funding this government one paycheck to the next, one stopgap to another," Reid said.

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