WASHINGTON — A visibly frustrated President Barack Obama emerged from a failed meeting on a budget deal Tuesday and said he would demand daily sessions with House Speaker John Boehner until an agreement was hammered out to prevent a U.S. government shutdown at week's end.
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In an unannounced appearance in the White House Briefing Room on Tuesday, Obama warned that the U.S. economy could not afford the disruption that a government shutdown could inflict.
"It would be inexcusable of us to not be able to take care of last year's business ... when we are this close, simply because of politics," he said after meeting with Republican and Democratic leaders to discuss the fiscal 2011 budget.
Obama said the administration was "prepared to meet for as long as possible to get this resolved."Vote: Who would you blame for a government shutdown?
Obama spoke not long after Boehner's office issued a statement that insisted the two sides remained far apart and that Republicans had never, as the White House contends, agreed on $33 billion in cuts to the federal spending allotment for the remaining six months of the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30.
Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Boehner and Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid met in the White House on Tuesday as the clock ticked toward a midnight Friday expiration of the government's spending authority.Video: Threat of government shutdown looms (on this page)
"We are closer than we have ever been to an agreement. There is no reason why we should not get an agreement," Obama said in a surprise appearance in the White House reporters briefing room.
Boehner and Reid met alone for about 40 minutes later Tuesday in Boehner's office, according to NBC News. The two had a "productive discussion" and "agreed to continue working on a budget solution," their spokesmen said in nearly identical statements.
Obama said that if the session produces no agreement he would summon both men back to the White House Wednesday and daily thereafter, if necessary.Interactive: Budget brinkmanship (on this page)
"Myself, Joe Biden, my team we are prepared to meet for as long as possible to get this resolved," Obama said.
Boehner calls for deeper cuts
Obama had barely finished speaking when Boehner strode before microphones to insist that the White House and Senate Democrats bow to demands for deeper cuts. Boehner is under extreme pressure from newly elected House members, many with allegiance to the ultraconservative Tea Party, to slash spending, the size of government and lower taxes.
Short of a long-term deal, Boehner has proposed an agreement that would keep the government running for one more week and cut another $12 billion in spending. Boehner has already orchestrated action by Congress to pass a pair of stopgap bills, so far cutting $10 billion from an estimated $1.2 trillion budget to fund the day-to-day operations of government through the fiscal accounting period.Video: Boehner: Won't allow White House to put us in a box
Obama said he would only accept another short-term funding extension, of two or three days, to get a longer-term deal through Congress. But he ruled out a longer extension to allow negotiations to continue.
"That is not a way to run a government. I cannot have our agencies making plans based on two week budgets," Obama said. "What we are not going to do is once again put off something that should have been done months ago."
Boehner said Republicans "will not be put in a box" of accepting options they refuse to endorse.
Democrats accuse Republicans of pushing for harmful spending cuts and attaching a social policy agenda to the must-pass spending bill. Boehner counters that the White House is pressing gimmicky budget cuts.
Both sides prepare for possible shutdown
As a government shutdown appeared increasingly inevitable, the White House has begun advising government agencies on the proper steps in preparation for a shutdown of the government. Republicans on Monday disclosed plans to instruct lawmakers "on how the House would operate in the event Senate Democrats shut down the government."
And in a memo to agency officials, the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, Jeffrey Zients, urged agency heads to refine and update contingency plans in the event negotiators don't strike a deal by Friday's deadline.Story: In GOP's new plan, big health cost shift to elderly
Boehner's one-week plan could reassure Tea Party-backed lawmakers who are among the most vocal in seeking to reduce the size and scope of the government. It could also put pressure on Democrats and the White House to offer greater spending cuts.
But there's no visible movement on an impasse over Republican policy riders attacking Obama's health care and financial reform laws, cutting taxpayer funds to Planned Parenthood and reversing a host of Obama's environmental policies.
GOP presents separate, long-term budget plan
On a separate long-term track, Republicans controlling the House have fashioned plans to slash the budget deficit by more than $5 trillion over the upcoming decade, combining unprecedented spending cuts with a fundamental restructuring of taxpayer-financed health care for the elderly and the poor.
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan unveiled the Republican budget blueprint Tuesday morning just as Boehner headed to the White House.
Ryan's program includes a controversial proposal to convert the traditional Medicare health care program for the aged into a system by which private insurers would operate plans approved by the federal government.
Current Medicare beneficiaries or workers age 55 and older would stay in the existing system.
At the same time, Republicans propose to sharply cut projected spending on the Medicaid state-federal health program for the poor and disabled and transform it into a block grant program that gives governors far less money than under current estimates, but considerably more flexibility.
The White House was quick to dismiss the Ryan plan as unacceptable.
"We strongly disagree with this proposal," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
Carney's comments echoed those of congressional Democrats and illustrated the deep divide over how to remedy the deficits and debt that saddle the nation's finances
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