WASHINGTON – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) conceded Thursday morning that a government shutdown was likely, less than 12 hours after claiming progress had been made and seeming hopeful about a budget deal.
“I am not nearly as optimistic — and that’s an understatement — as I was 11 hours ago,” Reid said on the Senate floor. Speaking about the prospect of a shutdown when funding expires Friday, he said “it looks like it’s heading in that direction.”
A late-night meeting Wednesday between President Barack Obama, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Reid (D-NV) failed to produce an accord between the two parties, and even if a deal is struck in time, procedural rules would prevent it from being enacted in time to avert a temporary closure of services.
Reid and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) blamed the negotiation breakdown on the GOP’s insistence on including “rider” provisions such as limits on Environmental Protection Agency authority and blocks on grants to Planned Parenthood.
“The only thing holding up the agreement is ideology,” Reid said, accusing Republicans of having “drawn a line in the sand” over ideological issues unrelated to the budget.
Schumer doubled down on the message in a Twitter post Thursday.
“Ds & Rs have come to basic agreement on spending cuts, but GOP insisting on special interest riders on abortion,” the third-ranking Democrat wrote.
Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner, flatly rejected the notion that a level of spending cuts had been agreed to, but didn’t deny that Republicans are demanding the ideological provisions.
“What Sen. Reid and Sen. Schumer said is not correct,” he told Raw Story in an e-mail. “There is no agreement on spending cuts or policy.”
Boehner has worked to negotiate an agreement and avoid a shutdown, but he’s boxed in by a group of rebellious House tea partiers who may be unwilling to accept any deal agreeable to Democrats.
A Gallup poll found Wednesday that Republicans are far more willing to permit a showdown than Democrats and independents if their budget goals aren’t met.
The White House is poised to hold another meeting with Boehner and Reid on Thursday afternoon, but with just 36 hours left, all sides are bracing for a shutdown.
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