In yet another attempt to avert a partial shutdown of the federal government that could could start as early as Saturday, President Obama has invited Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to the White House for a Wednesday evening meeting to try and reach a spending deal.
The president will meet the congressional leaders after returning from New York where he was scheduled to give a speech at a gala dinner of Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network.
At the very least, the evening White House meeting could help Obama fend off any GOP criticism headed his way that he was attending a Sharpton gala while the federal government hurtled towards shutting down.
The White House meeting will come only hours after the president again accused the Republicans of playing politics with the government shutdown at an an energy event near Philadelphia at a manufacturer of wind turbines. The president told the audience:
OBAMA: Now, after weeks of negotiations, we've now agreed to cut as much spending as the Republicans in Congress originally asked for. I've got some Democrats mad at me, but I said: You know what? Let's get past last year's budget; let's focus on the future.
So we've agreed to a compromise. But somehow, we still don't
have a deal, because some folks are trying to inject politics in what
should be a simple debate about how to pay our bills. I mean, they're stuffing all kinds of issues in there — abortion and the environment and health care and — you know, there are times to have those discussions, but that time's not now. Right now, we need to just make sure that we pay our bills and that the government stays open.
And if we don't reach common ground by Saturday, the federal government shuts down.
And some of you may not be that sympathetic.
You may say, well, you know, let it shut down. What do I care? But
here's the thing. When government shuts down, it means that that
small-business owner who's waiting to get a loan, suddenly nobody's there to process it. He may not get that loan and that business may not open. And whoever he was planning to hire, suddenly he may not have that job that he was counting on.
It may turn out that somebody who was trying to get a mortgage
can't have their paperwork processed by the FHA and now the person who was going to sell the house, what they were counting on, they can't get it.
Folks who were planning a vacation to Yellowstone, well, it turns
out national parks, suddenly you're closed. You're out of luck. You
may have to try to figure out if you can get your money back for that resort you were going to stay at.
I mean, you know, these — these are things that affect ordinary
families day in, day out. And it affects our economy right at the
time when our economy is getting momentum. We had the best jobs report we had had in a very long time this past Friday. But you know what? Companies don't like uncertainty, and if they start seeing that suddenly we may have a shutdown of our government, that could halt momentum right when we need to build it up — all because of politics.
At a news conference on Capitol Hill, Boehner blamed the president, accusing him of not showing the kind of leadership that could lead to a budget agreement.
Perhaps an indication of his long days of meetings are starting to blur, Boehner mistakenly indicated in his comments that the potential shutdown would happen a day earlier than it actually would.
SPEAKER BOEHNER: You know, I — I've got to tell you all that I
like the president personally. We get along well. But the president
isn't leading. He didn't lead on last year's budget, and he clearly
is not leading on this year's budget.
And remember that the Democrats had a majority here last year,
supermajorities in the House and Senate, they had the White House, and yet they failed to pass a budget. As a matter of fact, they couldn't even agree on the budget after the election, and in December they just punted until this month.
When you look at the fact that the president introduced a bill to
put a debt commission together a year ago, and while I didn't agree
with everything his debt commission put forward, I want to tell you
what, these people really worked hard and they had a lot of very good ideas. And yet the president used none of his own deficit-reduction commission's ideas in his own budget.
Here we are trying to clean up last year's mess. We're — our
goal is real clear: we're going to fight for the largest spending
cuts we can get and the policy riders that were attached to them
because we believe that cutting spending will lead to a better
environment for job creation. We're continuing to have conversations with our colleagues in the Senate. I'm hoping that they'll continue to go well. But the government's due to shut down tomorrow, so we're going to be prepared to move over with our troop-funding bill that would fund our troops, keep the government open for another week, and cut $12 billion in spending. I think this is the responsible thing to do for the United States Congress, and I would hope the Senate could pass it and the president would sign it into law.
.. If I could just add, Republicans have no interest in shutting down the government. Shutting down the government I think is irresponsible and I think it will end up costing the American taxpayers more money than we're already spending. And I believe our members want to support out troops want to pay our troops. And we're going to do the responsible thing tomorrow.