- The Washington Times - Friday, April 8, 2011

With less than a few hours to go before a government shutdown Friday night, both parties made their last pleas for a spending agreement on their own terms, even as aides said leaders were trying to ready a short-term stopgap spending to try to buy more time.

After trading barbs in competing press conferences earlier in the day, House Speaker John A. Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid disappeared from public sight by mid-afternoon as they negotiated over details.

Mr. Reid told reporters earlier in the day Mr. Boehner had agreed to cut $38 billion from 2010 spending levels, but was insisting on certain policy provisions that Democrats couldn’t accept. Mr. Boehner shot back that the dispute was still over a final spending cuts number.

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Stopgap funding for most basic government functions expires at midnight Friday.

In the absence of a final spending agreement, lawmakers from all sides took to the chamber floors and the cable news networks to blame each other and call for a resolution.

“I cannot believe we’ve reached this point,” said Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, just after 9 p.m. Friday. “It is time, literally, for the speaker of the House to come forward and accept the dollar amount he agreed to last night.”

The House has passed both a broad bill to fund the government through the rest of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, and a shorter bill to fund it through April 15, while fully funding the Defense Department the rest of the year.

The Senate rejected the broader bill, and hasn’t taken up the short-term bill, but has yet to pass any proposals of its own.

Earlier Friday Mr. Reid had said he would put a short-term measure on the floor to give all sides some breathing space, but by mid-evening had not done so.

Republicans said their chief goal was to make sure that the U.S. military would continue to be paid, and tried to push legislation to ensure that.

“I believe in the next three hours we will do the right thing,” said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, the Texas Republican who was leading the troop-funding effort.

There were three moving parts in the year-long spending negotiations: The size of cuts, the composition of those cuts, and what legislative add-ons, known as “policy riders, will be attached.

House Republicans, in the long-term big spending bill they passed in February, included restrictions on spending for Planned Parenthood and on the administration’s ability to pursue its environmental and health care agendas.

Democrats have insisted all of those be dropped in a final agreement, while Republicans are arguing they will have to see more spending cuts.

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