Among Lawmakers, Budget Battle Heats Up

President Obama held an unscheduled press conference to discuss the budget showdown with Republicans in Congress. Lawmakers face a possible government shutdown on Friday if they don't come to an agreement on the budget.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

Friday night is looming. That's when the government shuts down if there's no deal on the budget. This morning, President Obama tried to broker an agreement with congressional leaders, but the impasse remains.

And we begin our coverage with NPR's Ari Shapiro from the White House.

ARI SHAPIRO: President Obama seemed visibly frustrated when he showed up unannounced in the daily White House briefing.

President BARACK OBAMA: The only question is whether politics or ideology are going to get in the way of preventing a government shutdown.

SHAPIRO: The president said he's not interested in blame. Then, he argued that the country is only in this situation because Congress has failed to do its job.

Pres. OBAMA: There are some things that we can't control. We can't control earthquakes. We can't control tsunamis. We can't control uprisings on the other side of the world. What we can control is our capacity to have a reasoned, fair conversation between the parties and get the business of the American people done.

SHAPIRO: President Obama argued that Democrats have now signed on to the Republicans' proposed $33 billion in cuts. He said the fight now is just over what the cuts should be. But on Capitol Hill, House Speaker John Boehner said Republicans never agreed on $33 billion as a final number.

Representative JOHN BOEHNER (Republican, Ohio; Speaker of the House): They'd like to insist that 33 is the top number and want to use smoke and mirrors in order to get there. That is not acceptable to our members, and we will not agree to it. And we did not agree to it. We're going to continue to fight for the largest cuts possible.

SHAPIRO: Boehner has offered a one-week extension to prevent a government shutdown, but President Obama says that's no way to run a government. He wants the parties back at the White House tomorrow if there's no agreement tonight.

This entire debate is only over discretionary spending, which makes up 12 percent of the federal budget. And fiscal year 2011 is already half over. The debate over next year is just beginning.

Ari Shapiro, NPR News, the White House.

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