WASHINGTON – US House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday there was no budget deal yet to keep the government operating, and insisted his fellow Republicans would fight for huge spending cuts during negotiations with Democrats.
"There's no agreement on numbers, and nothing will be agreed to until everything is agreed to," Boehner told reporters, blunting comments by Vice President Joe Biden who had hailed "good progress" a day earlier in budget talks aimed at averting a government shutdown.
"We are going to fight for all the spending cuts that we can get," Boehner said.
But the top Republican acknowledged that "we're talking" with Democrats, and stressed it was key to reach a deal quickly on a congressionally approved budget that slashes tens of billions of dollars in spending.
"The sooner we get this finished, the sooner we can get to dealing with the really big issues that affect our country," he said, adding that it had been 40 days since the Republican-controlled House passed a bill slashing more than $60 billion from current spending levels. The bill was defeated in the Senate, which has a Democratic majority.
"I think it's time to move to a budget," said Boehner.
The US government has been running on temporary budget extensions for the last six months, but the latest so-called continuing resolution -- the sixth of its kind -- expires on April 8.
Negotiators have been working on a proposal of some $33 billion in spending cuts from President Barack Obama's never-passed 2011 budget blueprint.
The figures was acknowledged by Biden but falls far below the $100 billion sought by conservatives including "Tea Party" activists, many of whom gathered outside the US Capitol earlier for a rally calling for greater fiscal austerity.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said the Obama administration remains "optimistic that an agreement can be reached."
He called Boehner's comments a "positive sign" of potential compromise between both camps that would see Democrats and Republicans make concessions to reach a final deal.