Entries in Budget Negotiations (5)


VP Biden Says Debt Talks Progressing, 'Getting Down to the Real Hard Stuff'

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- After emerging from the eighth round of Biden-led deficit reduction negotiations to raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling, negotiators made clear Thursday night that while the bipartisan, bicameral group is making progress, nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to.

“We’ve made progress on that but any progress on that is contingent on resolving other issues down the road. And I want to emphasize that,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the ranking member on the House Budget committee, said. “Today was primarily going over some of the earlier issues we discussed in a rough way at the beginning of this process.  And trying to pin down where we actually had agreements. And again I want to emphasize this, nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to.”

Van Hollen said that everything is subject to be reopened for re-negotiation “if we don’t get agreement on some of the big issues.” Those big issues, the Maryland Democrat added, are still a “long way” away from being worked out.

Thursday’s discussion focused on non-health mandatory spending, which accounts for about 12 percent of the federal budget. But nothing had been agreed to yet, legislators leaving the meeting emphasized.

“We have more do to on that, and we’ve got more to do on the healthcare and more to do on the discretionary,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said.

Vice President Biden said there are still differences that have to be bridged and that won’t occur until the end -- a natural result of how the negotiating process works.  The meetings up until now, Biden says, have been about the low-hanging fruit in the areas where they can identify mutual agreement on savings. The tough topics are what is left ahead of the Treasury Department’s Aug. 2 deadline to enact a deal.

“We’ve gone through all those discrete elements, and the really tough stuff that’s left are the big ticket items, and philosophically big ticket items,” Biden said.  “Where we are now is we’ve gone through a first series scrub of each of the categories that make up the total federal budget including mandatory spending, and we’ve said if we could agree on the pieces most important to us -- Democrats -- revenue, we’re prepared to agree on some of the things you want in discretionary spending if we can get an agreement on military, we’re prepared to do more on.”

Asked whether he is concerned that if and when this group brokers a deal it might be hard to sell to the rank-and-file members on both sides, Biden said he is not worried and that they won’t agree on anything that they cannot get passed through each chamber with bipartisan consensus.

The group will meet up to four times next week and has been told to take “bigger chunks out of their calendar” for these meetings.

“Now we’re getting down to the real hard stuff,” Biden said as he left the Capitol this evening.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


It's a Deal: Congressional Leaders Strike Last Minute Deal, Avoid Shutdown

Antonio M. Rosario/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- After long and hard-fought negotiations on the budget of the 2011 fiscal year, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were able to strike a deal at the last minute, avoiding what would have been the government's 18th shutdown at midnight.

At a late night meeting Friday with his Republican members, Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called it "the best deal we could get."

In a joint statement, Speaker Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said, "We have agreed to an historic amount of cuts for the remainder of this fiscal year, as well as a short-term bridge that will give us time to avoid a shutdown while we get that agreement through both houses and to the president."

Boehner and Reid say this agreement will cut $78.5 billion below President Obama's 2011 budget proposal.

Democrats and Republicans alike had been prepared to blame the other in the event of a so-called "spending gap" that would have caused 800,000 federal workers to be furloughed in addition to the potentially damaging economic effects of a shutdown.

In recent weeks, congressional leaders had failed to agree on what cuts ought to be made to the federal budget, like whether or not to eliminate $363 million in federal funding to women's health care centers including Planned Parenthood. 

As of Thursday night, President Obama told Speaker John Boehner that he could agree to more spending cuts if programs he supports -- such as Head Start -- were spared, and more cuts were made in the Pentagon Budget and "mandatory" spending programs required by law.

Boehner agreed in theory.  They both agreed that their teams would find a number between $35 billion and $39 billion.  The size of the cut would come down to the composition of what was being cut.  At that time, Boehner could not commit to ending the demand that Planned Parenthood would be de-funded.

By the end of Friday night's negotiations, Congressional leaders were able to agree upon a short-term Continuing Resolution to keep the government functioning through next week while details of a long-term deal are ironed out.  The short-term bridge, both Boehner and Reid say, will cut the first $2 billion of the total savings.

Sources say that the current agreement does not eliminate funding for the controversial Planned Parenthood issue and that Republicans have agreed to put it aside, at least for now.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Sen. Sessions: ‘Surely We'll Be Able to Reach an Agreement’

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON -- Amid the saber-rattling on Capitol Hill, there are at least glimmers of optimism about a potential breakthrough before the midnight deadline for a government shutdown.

On Friday, Sen. Jeff Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, told ABC News that while “every billion is important” in the negotiations, both sides are making “progress” and appear likely to resolve their differences in time.

“Surely we'll be able to reach an agreement,” said Sessions, R-Ala. “But, you know, when you negotiate you don't start negotiating with yourself. You don't start backing off the numbers that you believe in. So you negotiate as hard as you can.”

Sessions also warned that plenty of funding fights are still ahead in Congress: “This is just the beginning. This is the end of this fiscal year. We've got next year's budget. We've got the debt limit we've got to work our way through. We need to continue to fight every day to bring down spending.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Gov't Shutdown Gets Closer: Obama, Boehner, Reid Don't Reach Deal

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) --  Yet again, President Obama and the leaders of the House and Senate gathered at the White House and failed to reach an agreement on how to keep the federal government funded and open beyond an end-of-Friday deadline.

"We have narrowed the issues," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said in a joint written statement after their fourth meeting at the White House Thursday evening. "However, we have not yet reached an agreement. We will continue to work through the night to attempt to resolve our remaining differences."

It was the second meeting with Obama Thursday, and the statement sounded strikingly similar to comments following the earlier White House meetings.

President Obama claimed "additional progress" while noting time was growing short to avert a government shutdown that would have wide effects, including perhaps 800,000 federal worker furloughs, curtailment of public services such as mortgage, passport and loan processing, and disruption to a recovering economy.

Others have noted a shutdown likely would delay many tax refunds and disrupt pay for military personnel.

"I'm not yet prepared to express wild optimism, but I think we are further along today than we were yesterday," Obama said of the negotiations that would continue overnight.

"I expect an answer [from Reid and Boehner] in the morning," he said. "My hope is that I'll be able to announce to the American people sometime early in the day that a shutdown has been averted."

But yet again, he declined to specify specific points of disagreement in the negotiations -- believed to center not only around a dollar amount to be cut, but also which parts of the federal budget to cut and whether Republican "riders" on subjects such as abortion funding and environmental regulation will be part of an agreement.

Meanwhile, there are signs the negotiating atmosphere may be getting stickier as the negotiations come down to the wire.

Defiant House Republicans Thursday passed a temporary budget measure that would ensure U.S. troops are paid through September and keep the government running for another week, hours after President Obama threatened to veto it.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


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 

ABC News Radio