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President, Congressional Leaders Come Together to Talk Shutdown, Zika Funding

President Obama Meets with Congressional Leaders 1:03

The looming threat of a government shutdown and the growing need for Zika funding has brought the executive and legislative branches together at the White House for the first time since early February.

President Barack Obama invited Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Ca., to discuss both issues on Monday afternoon.

"I was encouraged by some of the constructive work that's being done right now," Obama said after the meeting.

Obama said his "hope is that by the time Congress adjourns, before the election, that we will have an agreement in place to fund the government and that Zika funding will be taken care of."

The first priority of the congressional leaders, according to the president, should be to avoid yet another government shutdown, which could happen if members do not pass a funding bill before the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.

Image: U.S. President Barack Obama meets with Speaker Paul Ryan (2nd-L), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (L), Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (R) and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (C) at the Oval Office in the White House, Washington U.S
U.S. President Barack Obama meets with Speaker Paul Ryan (2nd-L), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (L), Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (R) and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (C) at the Oval Office in the White House, Washington U.S., September 12, 2016. CARLOS BARRIA / Reuters

But a shutdown showdown is highly unlikely now that McConnell set up a vote on a continuing resolution that could happen as early as this week.

After the meeting, McConnell released a statement, saying, "We had a good meeting, talked about wrapping up the funding issue and I think we are all in a very good place to do that on a bipartisan basis pretty quickly."

His spokesman, David Popp added, "Leader McConnell was happy to give the president an update on the ongoing bipartisan-bicameral congressional negotiations regarding the CR and Zika funding."

The short-term funding bill would keep the government operating until Dec. 9, effectively moving the budget deadline to after Election Day.

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But instead of once again passing a bulk funding bill at year's end, Speaker Ryan indicated that Republicans will strive to roll out separate mini-funding packages.

"The speaker talked about his desire to get the appropriations process working, and told the leaders he objected to doing an omnibus spending bill later in the year," an aide to the speaker said after the meeting with the president.

The continuing resolution is expected to include a $1.1 billion Zika funding provision that was struck down three times by Senate Democrats in the past several months.

To get them on board, Republicans are looking at scrapping controversial language from the Zika legislation that would have also defunded Planned Parenthood.

The leaders also said they were able to discuss bipartisan initiatives that could be addressed during the lame duck season including criminal justice reform, disaster relief for Louisiana and areas affected by wildfires this summer, and more money to help the Flint water crisis.

"Even though we're in the midst of a political season, everyone is thinking about elections, there's still business to be done," Obama said.