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Obama says he's open to 11th-hour talks on budget to avert shutdown

WASHINGTON -- Just hours before a midnight deadline, President Obama said he is not resigned to a government shutdown and left open the possibility that he might still negotiate with congressional Republicans to end a budget standoff.

In brief remarks to reporters Monday, Obama said he held out hope that lawmakers could step back from the brink.

"I am not only open to but eager to have negotiations around a long-term budget,” Obama said in the Oval Office, after a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

He said the only way to achieve an agreement "is for everybody to sit down in good faith, without threatening to harm women and veterans and children with a government shutdown. And certainly we can't have any kind of meaningful negotiations under the cloud of potential default -- the first in U.S. history."

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The president’s remarks come as Washington prepared for the first government shutdown since 1996. The Senate leadership was expected to reject a spending measure that would keep the government running, but also delay the Obama’s healthcare law for a year, a nonstarter for Democrats.

Lawmakers have been pinging the funding bill back and forth for a week, with few signs of backroom negotiating.

Now on the brink, the White House sought to at least appear to be game for discussions.

"You can expect that he would be having negotiations on the Hill, as he has in the past," said White House spokesman Jay Carney. Asked whether the president had reached out to House Speaker John Boehner, Carney said he did not have any calls to disclose.

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