Updated 1:10 p.m.
With criticism mounting about their lack of a specific plan on the budget, the White House has announced that President Obama will meet with Senate Democratic leaders at the White House on Wednesday afternoon.
White House spokesman Jay Carney also said Vice President Biden, who was asked to lead the budget negotiations last week but is now in Russia on a foreign policy trip, is also making calls to help the parties reach a budget deal.
Top House Republicans earlier on Wednesday criticized the White House on its negotiations with congressional leaders on keeping the federal government funded through September, arguing that the talks have been held up due to Biden’s travel abroad. They said another stopgap measure might be necessary to keep the government running past a March 18 deadline.
“The vice president was the main negotiator,” House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Wednesday morning. “The vice president’s not even in the country right now, and we have less than a week and a half. If you ask the press secretary at the White House, ‘Well, who’s the lead negotiator with the vice president gone?’ Can’t tell you.”
Echoing House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) charge earlier Wednesday that the president has been missing-in-action on the talks, McCarthy asked, “Not only where is the president, but where is the vice president? Who’s even going to have the negotiation? The Republicans have done their part. ... We’re not going to negotiate with ourselves.”
McCarthy made the remarks after a closed-door caucus meeting along with Cantor, Republican Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling (Texas), Vice Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.) and Chief Deputy Whip Peter Roskam (Ill.).
His remarks came one day after he told reporters at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast that an additional stopgap measure of several weeks might be necessary until both chambers and the White House can come to an agreement on the longer-term funding measure.
The Senate is set to vote Wednesday afternoon on two proposals: one passed by the House last month that would cut $61 billion from current spending levels, and another put forth by Senate Democrats last week that would cut less than $5 billion.
Congressional leaders agreed in negotiations with Biden last week that bringing both measures to the floor was the best step forward, as it would show that neither proposal is tenable, giving leaders leverage in demanding a compromise from their respective caucuses.
Biden has been out of the country since Monday on a week-long trip to Finland, Russia and Moldova, where he has been meeting with leaders to discuss bilateral, regional and international issues.
Even though Biden is out of the country, the claim that the White House has been absent from the negotiating table would appear to be something of a stretch; Cantor told reporters Tuesday at his weekly roundtable that he had spoken with White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley by phone regarding the funding resolution and that he was expecting a call back from Daley later Tuesday. Daley, along with Biden and Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew, was present in the Capitol last week for the budget talks with congressional leaders.