Yet weeks of negotiations have not led them to an agreement. A flurry of activity Thursday, including two Oval Office sit-downs with President Obama, did not close the gap, or even cool the rhetoric. Each side continued to accuse the other of playing politics, and of trying to force a government impasse.
The only question on the minds of everyone in the capital — will a shutdown happen? — is now being asked with increasing urgency. If the two sides cannot come to terms by midnight , Washington will effectively run out of money and the government will close.
“What I’ve said to the speaker and what I’ve said to Harry Reid is because the machinery of the shutdown is necessarily starting to move, I expect an answer in the morning,” Obama said just before 10 p.m. Thursday, concluding his fourth meeting with congressional leaders in three days.
The White House then canceled Obama’s scheduled trip Friday to Indianapolis to discuss hybrid-transportation technology.
Reid (D-Nev.), the Senate majority leader, told CNN Friday morning that the logjam revolved around Republican proposals to cut funding for Planned Parenthood, one of the so-called riders that have figured prominently in negotiations. “The debate has nothing to do with the number” to be slashed from the budget, Reid told CNN. “It has everything to do with women’s health. That’s the only issue that was left undone when we left the White House last night.”
But a spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) sharply disputed Reid’s claim, saying budget cuts themselves were still the sticking point.
“While nothing will be decided until everything is decided, the largest issue is still spending cuts,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said. “The American people want to cut spending to help the private-sector create jobs – and the Democrats that run Washington don’t.”
In what could be a critical meeting, House Republicans will gather in a room in the Capitol basement room at noon - precisely 12 hours before the shutdown deadline. House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), House Majority Leader Eric I. Cantor (R-Va.) and other GOP leaders are expected to brief reporters after that session.
Federal agencies on Thursday began preparing more than 800,000 federal workers nationwide for a possible shutdown, letting them know whether they should show up for work on Monday morning if the government runs out of funds.
There appeared to be a disconnect between the overheated gamesmanship that took place in front of the cameras and the calmer negotiations taking place out of view.
Boehner is pushing for a deal that would include about $39 billion
in spending cuts. Reid (D-Nev.), the Senate majority leader, and Obama have pushed to keep the reductions to about $34 billion, aides in both parties said.