Budget resolution may be near, sources say

Washington Bureau

Just hours before a midnight deadline, congressional leaders and White House officials were “on the way to resolving” a key sticking point in a budget dispute that has threatened a government shutdown this weekend, a senior Democratic official said Friday.

The deal was not final, but the two sides have agreed on cuts of $38 billion, up from $34.5 billion being considered a day earlier, the official said, discussing the negotiations on condition of anonymity.

The deal also would resolve controversial GOP demands to restrict abortion and environmental regulation, but officials did not detail how those issues would be solved.

It was not clear Friday night when the deal might go before lawmakers for their approval. But if it holds up, it would finally resolve a dispute that has festered for more than two months.

The possible deal comes after a day of private negotiations and public posturing over how and how much the federal government should spend for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.

Both sides said they wanted to avoid a government shutdown. On the floors of the House and Senate and before television cameras throughout the Capitol, members of Congress expressed deep regret over a looming shutdown while pointing the finger across the aisle.

Democrats said that at a White House negotiating session Thursday night, lawmakers agreed to cut federal spending levels by $38 billion but that Republicans were insisting on preserving spending guidelines, the thorniest being one restricting abortion services, in a final deal.

“The House leadership, with the speaker, have a very clear choice to make. And they don’t have much time to make that choice,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), flanked by the entire Senate Democratic caucus, said at an afternoon briefing. “They can keep their word and significantly cut the federal deficit, or they can shut down America’s government over women’s access to health care.”

“If that sounds ridiculous, it’s because it is ridiculous,” he added.

But House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told Republicans in a closed-door meeting that the hang-up was over spending, not social policy. Participants said Boehner, upbeat despite the grueling talks, did not discuss specific numbers but said the issue of the so-called riders had been resolved. Boehner told reporters he was committed to securing the most spending cuts possible.

“We’re not going to roll over and sell out the American people like it’s been done time and time again here in Washington,” Boehner said. “When we say we’re serious about cutting spending, we’re damn serious about it.”

At issue is a provision, known as Title X, that sends federal dollars to Planned Parenthood for family planning and health services such as cancer screenings. Republicans want to allow states to redirect that money away from abortion providers.

As the deadline approached, lawmakers increasingly were pressured by the reality of the shutdown’s impact. An estimated 800,000 federal workers nationwide would have been furloughed, and members of the U.S. military would see paychecks delayed if a solution was not reached quickly.

Concern was acute in the nation's capital, where monuments and museums would have closed at the start of the peak tourism season.

Congressional leaders had shuttled between the Capitol and the White House all week, but Obama did not take part in direct talks on Friday. He had canceled a planned trip to Indiana to discuss energy, and also a planned weekend getaway with his family to Williamsburg, Virginia.

The possible deal comes after a day of private negotiations and public posturing over how and how much the federal government should spend for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.

Both sides said they wanted to avoid a government shutdown. On the floors of the House and Senate and before television cameras throughout the Capitol, members of Congress expressed deep regret over a looming shutdown while pointing fingers across the aisle.

Democrats said that at a White House negotiating session Thursday night, lawmakers agreed to cut federal spending levels by $38 billion but that Republicans were insisting on preserving spending guidelines, the thorniest being one restricting abortion services, in a final deal.

"The House leadership, with the speaker, have a very clear choice to make. And they don't have much time to make that choice," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), flanked by the entire Senate Democratic caucus, said at an afternoon briefing. "They can keep their word and significantly cut the federal deficit, or they can shut down America's government over women's access to healthcare."

"If that sounds ridiculous, it's because it is ridiculous," he added.

But House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) told Republicans in a closed-door meeting that the hang-up was over spending, not social policy. Participants said an upbeat Boehner did not discuss specific numbers but said the issue of the so-called riders had been resolved. Boehner told reporters he was committed to securing the most spending cuts possible.

"We're not going to roll over and sell out the American people like it's been done time and time again here in Washington," Boehner said. "When we say we're serious about cutting spending, we're damn serious about it."

At issue is a provision, known as Title X, that sends federal dollars to Planned Parenthood for family planning and health services such as cancer screenings. Republicans want to allow states to redirect that money.

As the deadline approached, lawmakers have been increasingly pressured by the reality of the shutdown's impact. An estimated 800,000 federal workers nationwide would be furloughed, and members of the U.S. military would see paychecks delayed without a quick solution.

Concern was acute in the nation's capital, where monuments and museums would close at the start of the peak tourism season.

Congressional leaders have shuttled between the Capitol and the White House all week, but Obama did not take part in direct talks on Friday. He had canceled a planned trip to Indiana to discuss energy, and also a planned weekend getaway with his family to Williamsburg, Va.

michael.memoli@latimes.com

Staff writers Lisa Mascaro, Kathleen Hennessey, James Oliphant and Christi Parsons contributed to this report.

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