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Thursday
Apr072011

Deal Or No Deal? Shutdown Showdown Comes Down to The Wire  

ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- With a little more than a day to go to avert a government shutdown, both sides are still at loggerheads on a bill to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year.

Negotiators worked through the night and President Obama said a 90-minute Oval Office meeting with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., was “productive.”

“I thought the meetings were frank, they were constructive and what they did was narrow the issues and clarify the issues that are still outstanding,” Obama said, adding, “I remain confident that if we are serious about getting something done, we should be able to complete the deal and get it passed and avert a shutdown.”

Reid said he has “confidence that we can get this done,” but emphasized “we are not there yet.” Boehner, meanwhile, referred to “some honest differences” that continue to prolong the standoff.

“I want to reiterate that there is no agreement on a number and there is no agreement on the policy,” Boehner said Wednesday night. “But there’s an intent on both sides to continue to work together to try to resolve this.”

ABC’s George Stephanopoulos hears that negotiators are still a few billion dollars and several policy riders away from a deal. And in his exclusive interview with Speaker Boehner before Wednesday's White House meeting, the Ohio Republican said he and his GOP counterparts would keep “fighting for the largest cuts that we can.”

“The Democrats controlled the House last year, they controlled the Senate.…And we had a Democrat in the White House. They should have done this budget last year,” Boehner told Stephanopoulos. “Now, we’ve kept the government open while cutting about $10 billion worth of spending.…We’re cleaning up last year’s mess.” 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Apr072011

Boehner: Revenue Increases 'On the Table' If It Means Big 2012 Budget Deal

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- If considering revenue increases leads to a big 2012 budget deal for Republicans then so be it, Speaker John Boehner told ABC News in an exclusive interview.

“I’ll put everything on the table. I think Washington has a spending problem. I don’t think it has a revenue problem. I’m not interested in raising taxes on the American people. But if it takes leaving it on the table to have the conversation, I’ll have the conversation,” he said.

Boehner said Congress is done kicking “the can down the road” and said it’s time to follow in Rep. Paul Ryan’s footsteps with his $6.2 trillion in cuts. 

“Paul Ryan did a marvelous job in outlining how we can reform this government.  How we can put it on a path to prosperity.  And I’m proud of the work that he did,” Boehner said.

Proud of all the work, including replacing Medicare? Republicans ran ads against the president’s healthcare plan saying it would cut $500 billion from Medicare.

“If you look at what Paul Ryan’s doing we’re talking about transforming Medicare and making sure that it exists. You know what the greatest single threat to Medicare is?  Doing nothing. Doing nothing is the greatest threat to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid,” he said.

“We make clear that no senior and no one 55 or older will be affected by any of these changes. But for those that are 54 and under we’re going to have to make modifications to these programs or they will not exist.”

Boehner said he was “begging” President Obama for months to “lock arms” and address reforms– but said the president told him “we’ll see.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Apr072011

No Deal Yet After White House Budget Meeting

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- After a late night, 90-minute meeting Wednesday in the Oval Office with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker John Boehner, President Obama declared no deal in the budget standoff but still called the meeting "productive" and is confident a deal can get done before a government shutdown comes.

"I thought the meetings were frank, they were constructive and what they did was narrow the issues and clarify the issues that are still outstanding," Obama said, though he declined to elaborate on the sticking points.

"I remain confident that if we are serious about getting something done, we should be able to complete the deal and get it passed and avert a shutdown.  But it’s going to require a sufficient sense of urgency from all parties involved.  It means the people will have to recognize that a government shutdown has real consequences for real people," Obama said from the podium in the briefing room. 

Obama vowed an around-the-clock effort and promised a status check Thursday morning.

"If we haven't made progress, we're going to go back at it again.  And we're going to keep on pounding away at this thing because I'm absolutely convinced that we can get this done," Obama said.  "There’s no reason why we should not be able to complete a deal."

After Obama finished making his points, Boehner and Reid took their turn in front of the cameras, making their respective points outside the White House.

Describing the meeting, Reid said, "It was very honest, we’ve narrowed the issues significantly and we’re going to continue working.  Our staffs are going to work through the night.  The speaker and I will get back together tomorrow morning and see how they did and continue.  I have confidence that we can get this done.  We are not there yet but the hope lies eternal."

Boehner echoed Reid but added his own twist, saying no numbers or policy have been settled.

"We did have a productive conversation this evening," Boehner said.  "We do have some honest differences but I do think we made some progress.  But I want to reiterate that there is no agreement on a number and there is no agreement on the policy.  But there’s an intent on both sides to continue to work together to try to resolve this.  No one wants the government to shut down.  We are going to continue to work throughout the night and tomorrow."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Apr072011

Donald Trump Looking Good in Early Polls for 2012 Presidential Run

Mike Stobe/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Potential 2012 presidential candidate Donald Trump is gaining ground in the Republican Party, according to a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll.

Trump, the real estate mogul and host of NBC's The Apprentice, has talked seriously about seeking the GOP presidential nomination and voters are seriously taking him at his word, judging by the survey that shows him running second behind frontrunner Mitt Romney in a hypothetical poll of Republican candidates.

Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, leads by 21 percent, with Trump and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee tied in second with 17 percent.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich comes in third with 11 percent followed by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin at 10 percent.

Interestingly, none of these Republican hopefuls have said definitely that they're running for president.

Trump has raised a stir lately by joining those in the "birther" movement who question whether President Obama was born in the U.S.  This has apparently resonated with people who identify themselves with the Tea Party movement: the NBC/WSJ poll shows Trump the most popular Republican with this group.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Apr072011

John McCain Says He's Sitting Out 2012 Primaries

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. John McCain has had it with presidential primaries.

The 2008 Republican nominee said Wednesday that he won't be doing any campaigning or endorsing, at least until voters decide which Republican they want to put up against President Obama in 2012.

Cracking a joke at his own expense, McCain told reporters, "I intend, as is the tradition of losers, to remain out of the primaries."

As for who he personally favors to get the GOP nod, the veteran Arizona lawmaker is playing it very close to the vest.

Pressed about whether he'd endorse his 2008 running mate, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, McCain would only say that if she decides to run, "I believe she will be very competitive.  She has a significant and strong Republican base in the Republican Party."

Whoever the eventual candidate is, McCain believes that person can make a strong case why voters shouldn't reelect Obama, saying, "He promised change and we really didn’t see change.  We increased spending and size of the federal government.  We’re now rejoicing that unemployment is down to 8.8 percent."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Apr072011

NJ Governor Calls His State's Teachers Union 'Political Thugs'

Governor's Office/Tim Larsen(KEARNY, N.J.) -- New Jersey's Gov. Chris Christie took another shot at his state's teachers Wednesday by describing their union leaders as "political thugs."

In an interview with ABC News' Diane Sawyer, Christie offered no apology for his often tough talk that has left some teachers feeling bruised, and also addressed the possibility of a presidential run in 2012.

While sitting in the school library at Lincoln School in Kearny, New Jersey, Christie told Sawyer that it's essential for his state's education system to change, and he blames the teachers union for the harsh cuts his administration is making, which include layoffs and larger classrooms.

"I believe the teachers in New Jersey in the main are wonderful public servants that care deeply.  But their union, their union are a group of political thugs," Christie said.

He said the New Jersey Education Association refused to negotiate on a salary freeze last year.

"They should have taken the salary freeze," he said.  "They didn't and now, you know, we had to lay teachers off.  They chose to continue to get their salary increases rather than be part of the shared sacrifice."

Dismissing objections to his blunt talk, Christie said, "We're from New Jersey and when you're from New Jersey, what that means is you give as good as you get."

Christie is also suggesting a dramatic change in the state's tenure program, forcing tenured teachers to undergo a yearly review and face removal from tenure if they're found to be ineffective.

Christie's tough talk for teachers unions has found a receptive audience beyond his state borders.  A political unknown on the national stage just two years ago, Christie, 48, is now mentioned as a possible presidential candidate.  But the governor repeated his claim Wednesday that he has no plans to run in 2012.

"No, I'm not running for president," Christie said.  "I don't feel ready in my heart to be president.  And unless I do, I don't have any right offering myself to the people of this country."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Apr062011

Obama Meets with Congressional Leaders to Facilitate Budget Deal

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Imag(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama said he had a "productive meeting" at the White House Wednesday evening with House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.  It's the second second day in a row the president has met with congressional leaders of both parties to spur negotiations on a deal to avert a government shutdown.

"I thought the meetings were frank, they were constructive," Obama said, adding that the discussions helped focus the issues at hand.

Obama suggested he would keep the pressure on both sides to reach a deal before government funding runs out at midnight Friday.

"My expectation is that folks will work through the night," Obama said. "If we haven't made progress [by morning], we're going to go at it again.

"There is no reason we should not be able to complete a deal," Obama added. "I want to meet the expectations of the American people in terms of delivering with them."

A White House official said in advance of Wednesday's White House meeting that the goal was not to reach a deal, but to keep negotiations on track amid fears they "went off the rails." 

Capitol Hill sources had agreed major developments were unlikely at the White House meeting, but offered a more positive take on the state of negotiations.  A top Republican said he was "much more optimistic" that a deal would be struck to avoid a shutdown. A top Democrat put even odds on avoiding a shutdown, but added of negotiations, "We are pretty much there substantively."

A government shutdown would have wide effects, officials said, including cutting off pay for military personnel and delaying many tax refunds.

At least 800,000 federal employees were expected to be furloughed, the same as during the 1995 government shutdown. But unlike then, it's unclear whether they would receive back pay for the lost time.

Members of Congress, however, will continue to be paid. Every lawmaker must decide which of their employees is considered essential and should be kept on staff while the government is closed.

The clock quickly is running out for lawmakers. Per House rules, legislation has to be posted 48 hours before a vote, which means the GOP leadership has until Thursday morning to post a bill to avert a shutdown.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Wednesday
Apr062011

Obama Touts Achievements But Says More Must Be Done

ABC News (NEW YORK) -- With a high-stakes meeting aimed at averting a government shutdown looming, President Obama continued his pre-2012 campaign-style swing through the Northeast, where he addressed a very receptive crowd at the National Action Network convention in New York.

“There are times when change can seem painfully slow," he said. "There are times when you may say, 'I don’t know what Obama is doing.' In those moments, when we start asking ourselves if change is possible, we need to remember what we’ve done over the past few years.”

President Obama focused heavily on inequality and education during his 20-minute address at the 20th anniversary of the network started by the Rev. Al Sharpton.

“When there is an achievement gap between the levels of education of people between different backgrounds, that is not a black or white problem. That is an American problem," he said. "We are all responsible for the education of our children.”

Before the president took the stage, Sharpton heaped effusive praise on him for the work he has done since taking office, and warned those in attendance not to forget how far America has come since 2008.

“He took this nation from where most of us have never been in our lifetime and put us back on a solid course,” said Sharpton.  “Some of us in the most pain are being asked to make the most sacrifices. We are not going to be used like that.”

President Obama, who applauded the work of the National Action Network, quickly followed up on that message and pointed out what he believes he has achieved since taking office. He referenced health care reform, student loan reform, and the controversial bailout of the auto industry.

“We didn’t realize until late in the game that we would be facing the worst recession in generations. Some folks have amnesia about this. Where are we two years later?," the president asked the crowd.  “Our economy is starting to grow again. People are starting to get hired back.”

It was the president's second trip to New York City in the last week. A few days ago, he raised $1.5 million for the Democratic National Committee at the Red Rooster restaurant in Harlem.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Apr062011

ABC News Exclusive: Speaker Boehner on Budget Negotiations

Bill Clark/Roll Call via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Speaker of the House John Boehner said he is in lockstep with the Tea Party on budget negotiations despite claims from Democrats that there could be a deal if only he could buck the Tea Party.

“Listen, there’s no daylight between the Tea Party and me,” Boehner told ABC News in an exclusive interview. “None. What they want is they want us to cut spending. They want us to deal with this crushing debt that’s going to crush the future for our kids and grandkids. There’s no daylight there,” he said.

Democrats have accused Boehner of being pulled further back by the Tea Party and “moving the goal post” during negotiations by increasing his demand from $33 billion in cuts to $40 billion.

ABC News asked Boehner if he was willing to go as far as prominent Tea Party member Rep. Mike Pence, who said “shut it down” if Democrats don’t agree to additional cuts.

The Speaker said he has Pence’s full support.

“Well, Mike Pence stood up at our conference today and said, 'Mr. Speaker, I’m with you.'"

But in a statement released after ABC News' interview with the Speaker, Congressman Pence made it clear that his support is qualified -- just for the one-week CR, not a broader compromise:

“While I am frustrated that liberals in the Senate continue to resist our efforts to include even modest cuts in this year's budget, I will support a one-week Continuing Resolution because the troops come first. H.R. 1363 will fully fund the Department of Defense for the rest of this fiscal year and will reduce spending by $12 billion,” Pence wrote in the statement.

“We cannot put fiscal battles ahead of support for those who are fighting America’s real battles."

“We will not change the fiscal destiny of this nation without a fight. I am willing to keep fighting for one more week to ensure our men and women in uniform have the resources they need to get the job done and come home safe."

“I urge my colleagues in the Senate to enact the significant budget cuts in this resolution, fund our troops and join with us in changing the fiscal direction of the national government,” Pence concluded.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Wednesday
Apr062011

Government Shutdown: Which Offices Will Stay Open, Which Will Close

Antonio M. Rosario/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As Democrats and Republicans bicker over $30 billion, thousands of government employees fret over whether they can go to work on Monday. After the current continuing budget resolution expires at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, all "nonessential" government employees will be sent home until Congress passes and the president signs a budget for the remainder of fiscal year 2011.

The problem is, no one knows exactly who is considered "essential." A senior administration official said about 800,000 federal employees would be prevented from working in the event of a shutdown. These furloughed workers would not be paid during the shutdown, zapping $1.1 billion out of the economy in unpaid wages for a week-long shutdown.

ABC News has rounded up information from as many agencies as possible to find out who stays home and who goes to work, and how it might affect you.

Postal Service: The government shutdown won't affect mail delivery or mail processing, as the Postal Service is self-funded. "We don't get any taxpayer money. So we are not part of appropriations process. We will carry on and do what we always do: Deliver the mail," said a Postal Service spokesperson.

Medicare: People will still receive Medicare benefits, paid for by an emergency trust fund. If, hypothetically, the shutdown were to last for many months, Medicare benefits would stop, but the odds of a shutdown that lengthy are slim.

Social Security: Payments will continue as usual.

IRS: Working, but with limited services. The tax deadline, April 18, will not change, but the IRS will not process any paper tax returns, which account for 30 percent of the total returns filed. Tax audits will be suspended, and trademark and patent applications could also be delayed. The IRS will, however, continue to collect tax money.

Military: Military personnel will continue to work but will not be paid during a shutdown. They should earn backpay once Congress passes an appropriations bill. A bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill Wednesday to make sure members of the military would get paid even if the government shut down.

Airports: Air traffic controllers and Transportation Security Administration agents are considered "essential" employees.

Congress: Every member of Congress decides who on their staff is "essential" personnel. Many have said they will not furlough any of their staff members. Any staff members who are furloughed will not only be banned from the halls of Congress during the shutdown period, they will also have to turn off their office-issued BlackBerry cellphones.

Department of Homeland Security: Working, but with limited services. Over 80 percent of the DHS workforce has been deemed to be "essential" personnel for agencies such as TSA, Customs and Border Protection, Secret Service, Coast Guard, FEMA and Immigration Customs Enforcement. The host of employees from intelligence analysts to cyber security officials are also considered "essential" and will continue working.

Law Enforcement: At such agencies as the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Marshals, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. it will, for the most part, be business as usual.

Department of Justice: Working, but with limited services. The Criminal Division and the National Security Division, which conducts counterterrorism/counterespionage operations and wiretaps, would continue working, but large bureaucratic agencies, such as the Office of Justice Programs and Bureau of Justice Statistics, are not likely to be viewed as essential.

Federal Prisons: The prison system will be virtually unaffected by a government shutdown.

Passport Processing: Passport processing employees will be sent home during the shutdown, causing delays in the 200,000 passport applications currently pending. Visa processing will also be delayed or halted.

Federal Housing Administration: In the event of a shutdown, the FHA, which guarantees 30 percent of all mortgages, would not be able to guarantee housing loans. That "would have significant impact on the housing market," according to a senior administration official.

National Transportation Safety Board: Working, but with limited services. The chairman and the managing director may authorize very specific investigative activity, such as new investigations on major accidents involving significant casualties; accidents in which investigation is deemed necessary to transportation safety; and extremely limited support for ongoing investigative activity in which delay could pose a risk to public safety. All other activities will cease.

Small Business Administration: SBA approval of business loan guarantees and direct loans to people would stop, which would have an "impact on economic momentum," according to a senior administration official.

State Department: Working, but with limited services. The department will continue working domestically, issuing travel advisories and working with American citizens. It refused to comment on all foreign services.Other consular functions, like helping Americans in distress abroad, are likely to continue and other functions of the State Department and parts of its embassies that are deemed essential for national security reasons will continue.

Environmental Protection Agency: Working, but with limited services. The EPA will continue to do work that "affects safety and life" including monitoring radiation from Japan. Environmental claims processing would cease, along with toxic waste clean-up at EPA Superfund sites .The EPA will cease issuing permits, and delay work on environmental impact statements. And urgent new initiatives, including efforts to address mercury in the air and unregulated contaminants in drinking water, would be set back.

Department of Energy: The Energy Department will not furlough any employees and it will be basically business as usual because of a "no-year fund" that would pay for expenses in the event of a lapse in federal funding, according to a department official.

National Park Service: All national parks, such as Yosemite, Mount Rushmore, the Grand Canyon and monuments, would be closed. A Department of the Interior spokesperson said, "The National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management will close and secure park, refuge and visitor facilities on public lands. Limited personnel needed to protect life and property on public lands, such as law enforcement, emergency services and firefighting personnel, will be exempted from furlough." During the 1995 shutdown, the National Park Service turned away roughly seven million visitors and two million visitors were lock out of national monuments and museums. The gates to major parks were closed and locked up, and wire fences and chains were strung up around national monuments. This also means D.C's Cherry Blossom Festival events that take place on federal park property, most notably Saturday's parade, will be canceled.

Department of Defense: Working, but with limited services. A "significant number" of civilian employees will be furloughed.

Smithsonian Institute: All Smithsonian museums will be closed.

National Institutes of Health: Working but limited. NIH will not take any new patients or start new trials, but the clinical trials in progress will continue. There are seven new procedures that are scheduled to begin next week. There are 640 current clinical trials, none of which will be able to accept new patients during a shutdown.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio