President Obama invites party leaders for talks to avert shutdown

With voter approval of congressional Democrats and Republicans remaining low, President Obama on Monday invited leaders from both parties to meet with him at the White House to prevent a government shutdown at the end of the workweek.

At his briefing, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters that Obama had invited House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) among others to the White House to urge an agreement on the budget that funds government operations through Sept. 30, the end of the current fiscal year.

Negotiators are still apart, but just how far depends on whom is asked. Most reports say the parties are close to agreeing on cuts of about $33 billion from 2010 spending, but there are conservative Republicans who are pushing for more while Democrats are resisting cutting what they argue are needed programs. Unless the parties can reach agreement, the government could be shut down after April 8.

Leaders on both sides say they want to avoid a shutdown, but negotiators have publicly stood firm, making the outcome unclear. Polls released on Monday show that the public is divided and unhappy.

According to a poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, 39% said Republicans would be more to blame if the two sides could not agree and there is a shutdown, 36% would blame the Obama administration, and 16% say both are at fault.

The breakdown is similar to a poll in late February, according to Pew. But the attitude is sharply different from the last government shutdown in 1995 when other polls blamed Republicans over the Clinton administration by as much as 46% to 27%.

The Pew poll is based on 1,507 interviews from March 30 to April 3. It has an overall margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, though the error margin changes among subgroups depending on how the size of the sample changes.

The public is seeking compromise, according to the poll. It found that 55% wanted lawmakers to agree on the issue, while 36% said they wanted lawmakers to stand firm, even if it led to a government shutdown.

Meanwhile, according to a new Gallup Poll, 31% of Americans said they approve of Republicans in Congress while 32% said they approve of the Democrats. Both findings are among the lowest since Gallup began asking the question in 1999.

The results are based on interviews with 1,027 people between March 25 to 27. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

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