Forty-four days after House Republicans passed H.R. 1 — their bill to fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year — and after weeks of partisan squabbling, with a government shutdown looming if an agreement isn’t reached by April 8, President Obama has finally determined that the debate is worthy of his presence.
White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters today that the president has invited House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.), and House and Senate Appropriations chairs Hal Rogers (R., Ky.) and Daniel Inouye (D., Hawaii) to the White House to “assess where we are and make some decisions about whether or not we can make a final agreement.”
“The president is concerned that we need to reach a final agreement,” Carney said. “Time is of the essence.”
How reassuring. Can we assume that the U.N. and the Arab League have finally signed off on the talks as well?
UPDATE: Under new rules passed by House Republicans, all legislation must be made available to the public 72 hours before it can be taken up on the floor. Therefore, if the GOP doesn’t want to break its own rules, any agreed upon spending bill for the remainder of 2011 must be written and posted online by Tuesday night to allow for a vote by late Friday, April 8.
UPDATE II: Following Carney’s announcement, Republicans leaders issued defiant statements further criticizing Senate Democrats for failing to present a serious plan of their own to cut spending and keep the government open. House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) continued to deny the existence of an “agreement” on $33 billion in cuts.
“As I’ve said for a week, there is no agreement, and will be no agreement on a number until everything – including the important policy provisions from H.R. 1 – is resolved,” he said. “Despite attempts by Democrats to lock in a number among themselves, I’ve made clear that their $33 billion is not enough and many of the cuts that the White House and Senate Democrats are talking about are full of smoke and mirrors. That’s unacceptable.”
“It’s become sadly evident to me, and to the American people, that the White House and Senate Democrats are just not serious yet about enacting real spending cuts,” Boehner added. “I look forward to continuing these discussions, but for those discussions to be meaningful it will require the White House and Senate Democrats to bring a serious proposal to carry out the people’s will of cutting spending.”
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) said Democrats “continue to act irresponsibly by playing political games with a government shutdown by calling any effort to cut spending — no matter how sensible — ‘extreme’ regardless of the fact that the majority of Americans want to do exactly that.” He accused them of “promoting false promises and using sleight of hand budgeting to acheive an imaginary spending cut figure.”
“If Leader Reid and Senator Schumer refuse to offer a plan to cut spending, they have an obligation to offer a plan to raise taxes and I once again call upon them to do so,” he added. “If the Democrats demand to defend every dime of government spending and force a government shutdown, that will be on their hands.”