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Friday
Apr082011

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

Friday
Apr082011

Schumer to ABC News: Boehner 'Will Look Awful' If Gov't Shuts Down

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- With a government shutdown looming, the blame game is in full swing. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., tells ABC News that while a shutdown would be “bad for everybody,” the public will judge House Speaker John Boehner as the main reason why it’s happening.

“I think they're understanding that Speaker Boehner's unwillingness to deviate from these ideological riders because the Tea Party has him sort of as almost a hostage -- they'll understand that,” Schumer said.

Of Boehner’s statement this week to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that “there’s no daylight between the Tea Party and me,” Schumer said, “I wouldn't have said that if I were him.  Tea Party is not so popular in the U.S.”

Whether or not there’s a shutdown, he said, “really depends on one man:  John Boehner. He's caught between a rock and a hard place. The rock are the Tea Party hard-line Congress members. … But the other direction is he's the head of the Republican Party. And he knows if a shutdown occurs – and if it occurs because of these non-ideological riders like women's health -- he will look awful.”

“So he's stuck between a rock and a hard place. And if you wanted to get a bird's eye view of what's happening, you should be inside Speaker Boehner's brain. That's the only way to tell what's going to happen.”

Schumer asserted that Boehner offered President Obama a firm number for budget cuts – suggesting an agreement that Boehner and his staff say does not exist.

“At the White House last night, Speaker Boehner offered a number: $78 billion -- $78 billion in cuts. The president said we'll take that. And they spent all the rest of the time on the riders. The issue is not spending, but I understand where Speaker Boehner is. If everyone knew it was these riders he'd be in real trouble because no one thinks these riders belong on this bill. And so if it's really spending he should get up and pledge right now, 'I will take the riders off.' ”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Apr082011

Sen. Hatch: Dems' Policies 'Killing Us'; Budget Impasse 'Matter of Principle'

ABC News (WASHINGTON) -- The budget showdown, of course, is about government spending. But ask a member of Congress, and it’s also about principles.

Asked how Congress could be on the verge of shutting down the government over a disagreement of just a few billion dollars, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said Friday it’s the Democrats who won’t move off their bargaining position -- and that Republicans are right to stand on principle.

“There's no greater principle than getting this country under spending control. There's no greater principle at this time,” Hatch told ABC News. “I mean, come on. Who's to blame here? Republicans? We didn't control both houses like they did. No, they spent all their time on a lousy health care bill that's going to cost $2.6 trillion and add a huge amount to our total deficit.”

“This is a matter of principle. We just gotta start standing up. And $40 billion? They can't find $40 billion out of $3.8 trillion budget? It just makes ya mad!”

House Speaker John Boehner has already given more than enough ground, Hatch said.

“Boehner's come down from $63 billion to $40 billion. He's got a lot of people who are really upset at how far -- how far we've come down and tried to settle this matter. And now they're going to stop it for $2 billion? Give me a break.”

Hatch continued, “This place is just going to go haywire. And it is haywire because the Democrats have been in charge....I've seen this country go right down the drain because the Democrats' spending policies. And I've got to tell you, they're killing us."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Apr082011

Planned Parenthood Becomes Shutdown Sticking Point

Mark Wilson/Getty Images (file)(WASHINGTON) -- With the government set to shut down Friday night, Democrats say the only dispute between them and the Republicans is the GOP's policy rider that would prohibit any federal funding to Planned Parenthood or its affiliates.

"We agreed on a number [of spending cuts]. But we are not -- we are not! -- bending on women's health," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters Friday.

For a debate that could come down to a key women's reproductive rights issue, there's surprisingly few, if any, women in the room.

"I wonder if a couple of women got in the negotiating room they wouldn't be able to get this thing all wrapped up ASAP, so we can have weekend," former White House spokesperson Dana Perino Twittered Friday morning.

The talks are being led by President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, House Speaker John Boehner , and Reid. The group of high-ranking officials involved in the talks is also dominated by men: White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, White House legislative affairs director Rob Nabors, Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew, Boehner's Chief of Staff Barry Jackson and Reid's top staffer, David Krone.

The highest-ranking woman involved in the talks appears to be the Senate's number four Democrat, Patty Murray.

"I am really stunned, and I am angry as a woman, that we have come to this after weeks of negotiating on numbers, where we have in principle an agreement on numbers, that there those in the Republican party in the House who are willing to shut down the government, take people's paychecks away from them, because they want to deny women access to health care in this country," Murray said Thursday.

On Friday, she was just as emphatic.

"Women are not going to be thrown under the bus in this country for this agreement," she told reporters.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Apr082011

Boehner Calls on Senate to Pass Short-Term Extension

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- As the clock runs out, House Speaker John Boehner made a brief statement to the press Friday morning, providing an update on where negotiations stand with Senate Democrats and the White House on a deal to avoid a government shutdown.

“There’s only one reason that we do not have an agreement as yet, and that issue is spending,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said. “We’re close to a resolution on the policy issues, but I think the American people deserve to know, when will the White House, and when will Senate Democrats get serious about cutting spending?”

Boehner said, “A bill that fails to include real spending cuts will hurt job growth and signal that Washington’s not serious about dealing with its spending addiction.”

The speaker also called on Senate Democrats to pass the House’s short-term one-week continuing resolution that would cut $12 billion while funding the Pentagon through the end of the year.

“I think the Senate should follow the House lead and pass the troop funding bill and do it today,” Boehner said. “I also believe the president should sign the troop funding bill into law. This is the responsible thing to do to support our troops and to keep our federal government open.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has rejected the short-term extension, calling it a “non-starter” in the Senate while President Obama has threatened to veto the legislation.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Apr082011

GOP Senator: Government Shutdown May be Worth It

Office of Sen. Ron Johnson(WASHINGTON) -- As House and Senate lawmakers scramble to avert a government shutdown, one Tea Party senator says this is "certainly a fight worth having," even if it means no deal is reached.

Pointing to the $1.6 trillion deficit and a $14 trillion debt the nation currently faces, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., called this week's budget delay "absurd."

"We are talking about, let's face it, pennies when you look at the scheme of the debt," Johnson told ABC News. "We're also, with these continuing resolutions, talking about a budget that should have been passed last year when the Democrats controlled the White House, the House and the Senate."

Johnson said watching the negotiation this week has been frustrating.

"When the other side of the aisle, when their primary strategy is just to point at the Republicans and just shout 'extreme,' that's not taking the situation seriously," Johnson said, referring to a conference call in which reporters overheard Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., telling Democratic colleagues that Republican budget cuts should be painted "extreme."

Johnson arrived in Washington as the first Republican elected to the Senate from Wisconsin in 18 years and is fully committed to Tea Party values: he wants to repeal the health care law, supports a block on Environmental Protection Agency regulations and a balanced-budget amendment.

A political outsider, Johnson ran Pacur LLC, a polyester and plastics manufacturer, until he jumped into the Republican primary in May 2010, defeating his opponents with 85 percent of the vote.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Apr082011

Government Shutdown: Blame Game Played as Clock Ticks

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Republican and Democratic negotiators huddled behind closed doors into the early hours of the morning Friday to hash out a deal, but there is still no deal to avert a government shutdown that will happen Friday night at midnight if no bill is agreed upon.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., denounced Republicans Friday morning, saying they had agreed on how much to cut in spending, but talks have deadlocked on "ideology."

"It's an ideological battle," he said referring to riders to the spending bill that House Republicans are insisting on.  "It has everything to do with ideology on the other side of the Capitol."

Republicans say there's no agreement on the budget cuts and blame Democrats for not being serious about the cuts.

"While nothing will be decided until everything is decided, the largest issue is still spending cuts," said Michael Steel, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.  "The American people want to cut spending to help the private sector create jobs, and the Democrats that run Washington don't."

Reid and Boehner met with President Obama at the White House Thursday night for their fourth meeting this week.  Their aides continued the talks even after that, and will meet again Friday in the afternoon.

The White House says they have met Republicans more than halfway.

Sources said Democrats moved up their number to agree to $34.5 billion in spending cuts.  Republicans came down to $39 billion, but there's squabbling over about $6.5 billion.  Republicans also want to add $2 billion in defense spending, which would be offset by domestic cuts.

Republicans and the president are essentially in a standoff over 0.17 percent of the budget, plus health care services for women.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Apr082011

Government Shutdown: Employees May Have to Turn In BlackBerrys

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The dark shadow of a government shutdown is hanging over Capitol Hill and congressional offices are planning for the worst -- like what to do with the more than one million government-issued BlackBerry cellphones.

Memos are starting to go out informing staffers if they are "essential" or not, and rumors of collection bins for office-issued BlackBerry devices are flying through the hallways.

"We were hopeful maybe it won't happen yesterday, but after this afternoon…with the president's veto threat we are thinking this is going to happen.  Reality is setting in.  Everyone's preparing now," said one Republican House staffer Thursday.

The House Administration Committee issued a guidance memo Thursday encouraging members to confiscate furloughed employees' BlackBerry phones and laptops to ensure no one breaks the moratorium on performing official duties.  Over a million BlackBerry cellphones are used by government employees, according to a spokeswoman for RIM, the company that owns BlackBerry.

"The physical collection does seem a little bit dramatic but certainly the temptation is absolutely there," said the staffer, who asked not to be named because shutdown plans have not been made public yet.  "For a lot of us this is our life and to say well, no, we have to put it on hold is very tough.  I can't imagine it.  'Just sit back and stay at home' sounds like it would be great, but it's definitely not."

Rep. Thad McCotter, R-Mich., said he will not collect his furloughed staffers' cellphones.

"You don't need to go around like you're disarming them.  They are responsible adults.  I trust them not to use them," McCotter said.

The committee's guidance was rather vague on which staff members are "essential" and which should be furloughed, saying only employees whose work is necessary to fulfill a member's constitutional responsibilities, safeguard human life or protect property are "essential."

There is no consensus on just how many employees will stay in the event of a shutdown.  Some offices have said they will keep their entire staffs.  Others, like McCotter's office, has said every staff member will be furloughed.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Apr082011

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 

Thursday
Apr072011

Conservative David Prosser Retakes Lead in Wisconsin Supreme Court Race

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(MADISON, Wis.) -- Wisconsin's topsy-turvy Supreme Court race -- widely seen as a referendum on Republican Governor Scott Walker -- took another dramatic turn as incumbent justice David Prosser, a conservative, moved convincingly back into the lead.

On Wednesday, liberal challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg, an assistant attorney general, had appeared to eke out an upset -- besting Prosser by 204 votes in an unofficial tally. But officials in heavily Republican Waukesha County now say they discovered a counting error that, when rectified, gives Prosser an additional 7,582 votes.

Waukesha County clerk Kathy Nickolaus blamed the error on her failure to save results from the Milwaukee suburb of Brookfield on her database. She told reporters, "This is human error which I apologize for."

If the new results hold -- and a Democratic official in the county said they appear to be accurate -- Kloppenburg faces an uphill fight in a recount because the new margin is too large for the state to pick up the costs.

The race has been closely watched because Walker supporters and detractors viewed it as a proxy battle for his controversial move to strip state employees of union rights.

It produced a record turnout: nearly 1.5 million votes were cast for what is typically a low-key judicial election. The outcome is significant because Wisconsin's Supreme Court may soon decide the legality of the state's anti-union law.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio