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Posted at 09:16 AM ET, 03/29/2011

Hoyer: Odds of government shutdown have increased over past two weeks

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Tuesday said that he was “very concerned” about the status of negotiations on keeping the federal government funded past an April 8 deadline, saying that prospects for a government shutdown have increased since two weeks ago.

Asked at a National Journal breakfast how he would rank the odds of a shutdown on a scale of one (shutdown) to 10 (no shutdown), Hoyer replied, “I would’ve said 8 two weeks ago. At this point in time, I’ll tell you five to six.”

“Very frankly, I think that there is an opportunity for agreement,” Hoyer said about the ongoing talks between House Republicans, Senate Democrats and the White House. “That agreement ought to be made, as most agreements are made between people of differing points of view, with a compromise.”

He cast blame for the recent breakdown in talks on House Republicans, arguing that many in the 87-member Republican freshman class “believe a compromise is a sellout.”

As talks broke down late last week, both parties have pointed the finger at each other, with Democrats accusing Republicans of changing the terms of negotiation and Republicans charging that it was Democrats who had made the unreasonable demands.

Hoyer said Tuesday that he viewed the passage of the most recent stopgap funding measure earlier this month as a positive sign. On that vote, Republicans did not have a majority -- 54 Republicans and 104 Democrats opposed the measure – meaning that bipartisan support was needed in order to approve the three-week funding bill. In the end, 186 Republicans and 85 Democrats joined together to pass the measure.

“People on both sides didn’t agree with some of the things that were in there; that’s the nature of the democratic process,” Hoyer said Tuesday, adding that if Republicans’ “perfectionist caucus wins” and the government is forced to shut down, “it will be to the great detriment of our country.”

House Republicans on Monday charged that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) have been inflexible on spending cuts.

“It is clear that because Senator Reid refuses to make any spending cuts, he instead plans to force a massive future tax hike on families and small business people,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said in a statement. “In the scope of our debt crisis, if Senator Reid and Senator Schumer force the government to partially shut down over these sensible spending cuts, Americans will hold them accountable.”

By  |  09:16 AM ET, 03/29/2011

 
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