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Posted at 05:33 PM ET, 03/29/2011

Policy riders continue to trip up budget talks as deadline looms

House and Senate leaders continued to spar over federal spending Tuesday, the first day both chambers were back in Washington after a week-long recess, with the issue of policy riders remaining a key hurdle.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) pushed back against the notion that tentative agreement had been reached on a topline spending figure for the rest of the fiscal year, suggesting that the rider issue has yet to be resolved.

“There are a lot of numbers that have been discussed and thrown around,” Boehner said at a Tuesday news conference with other members of House Republican leadership. “The fact is there is not an agreement on a number, and secondly, nothing’s agreed to until everything’s agreed to. It’s just not cutting spending. There are a number of limitations that passed the floor of the House. Every appropriations bill that’s moved through this House in the 20 years that I’ve been here has contained limitations, and so will this final package.”

The “limitations” Boehner referred to are the more than five-dozen policy riders tacked onto the funding bill passed by the House last month. Senate Democrats have said that the inclusion of any riders would be a deal-breaker in the budget negotiations; many members of the House Republican freshman class have been adamant that they will not support any funding measure that does not include the riders.

Democrats, meanwhile, have pointed the finger at Republicans. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) delivered a floor speech Tuesday in which he urged Boehner to “forget the tea party and take the deal,” while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) office issued a statement later Tuesday saying that “sitting on Senator Reid’s desk right now is a serious proposal that cuts $70 billion in government spending while protecting America’s economic recovery.”

“If Republicans are truly interested in forging a bipartisan agreement that avoids a government shutdown, they should come back to the negotiating table and look at what’s in the proposal,” Reid spokesman Jon Summers said.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said earlier Tuesday that he believed the odds of a government shutdown had increased over the past two weeks. That, of course, would depend on whether both chambers would be able to pass another stopgap funding measure in case a longer-term measure isn’t hammered out by the April 8 deadline.

Asked Tuesday about the possibility of another stopgap, Boehner responded, “I’m not going to put any options on the table or take any options off the table. Our goal is to cut spending because it’s going to lead to a better environment for job creators in America.”

By  |  05:33 PM ET, 03/29/2011

 
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