Late Monday, a senior White House aide told top agency officials to begin preparations for how to handle a shutdown, a move that was echoed in a statement by Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) to House leaders.
But Boehner also announced his intention to offer Obama and Senate Democrats another stopgap funding measure that would keep federal funding flowing for an additional week. That offer would come with conditions, however: According to the House Appropriations Committee, Democrats would have to agree to $12 billion in further spending cuts and to fund the Defense Department for the remainder of the year — thus removing the Pentagon from the possible budget disruptions still faced by other federal agencies.
Short of a broad deal for the entire federal government, approving another short-term measure may be the only route to keep Washington open while the two sides work out their differences.
Many Democrats and Republicans have said they would not approve what would be the seventh stopgap funding bill since October, but some key conservative lawmakers said Monday that they would support one week’s funding if the bill included the Pentagon’s yearly spending. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has been pleading with Congress to exempt his department from the piecemeal plans for funding the government a few weeks at a time.
If lawmakers cannot reach an agreement, the first federal government shutdown since the mid-1990s would start Saturday and the full impact would be felt on Monday, when millions of federal employees across the country would typically report for work.
As the deadline neared, Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) exchanged insults, each side blaming the other for the stalemate.
Boehner continued to deny that he had agreed to a widely reported compromise with Democrats of $33 billion in spending reductions — even as one of his GOP chairmen worked with Democrats to hit that mark.
“Despite attempts by Democrats to lock in a number among themselves, I’ve made clear that their $33 billion is not enough, and many of the cuts that the White House and Senate Democrats are talking about are full of smoke and mirrors. That’s unacceptable,” Boehner said in a statement.
Speaking on the Senate floor, Reid insisted that “we agreed upon a number.” He accused Boehner of backing away from the compromise because of pressure from tea party activists who provided much of the energy in the GOP’s massive victory in the 2010 elections.
Many conservative Republicans in the House have said they would not vote for any budget deal unless it contained the full $61 billion in cuts GOP members approved earlier this year in a party-line vote. That measure was later rejected by the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats.