WASHINGTON (AP) — With the clock ticking to a partial government shutdown at midnight, the top Democrat in the Senate said Friday that the White House and Republicans have agreed on a spending cut of $38 billion but a that fight over federal dollars for Planned Parenthood is blocking a deal.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters he was cautiously optimistic after late night talks at the White House, but the budget dispute also has become a moving target. Reid said that in addition to agreeing on the spending cut, negotiators had worked out policy disputes that involve environmental protection, implementing President Barack Obama's health care law and regulating the Internet.
But the Nevada Democrat said his party is holding the line on a plan to cut Planned Parenthood off from federal money.
"That is an issue, as the president said last night, that we are not bending on," Reid said.
Failure to reach an agreement moved the government closer to a midnight shutdown that all sides say would inconvenience millions of people and damage a fragile economy.
In brief remarks, House Speaker John Boehner called on the White House and Senate Democrats to pass a one-week stopgap bill that would fund the Pentagon for six months, cut spending by $12 billion and keep the government operating. The House passed the bill on Thursday.
"This is the responsible thing to do to support our troops and keep our federal government open," the Ohio Republican told reporters. He took no questions.
Republicans and Democrats failed to reach a consensus in middle-of-the-night talks in the Capitol.
Republicans said the principal hang-up in the negotiations centered on the size of the spending cuts to be included in any deal to fund the government through September, when the current budget year ends. But Democrats said the GOP's demands on social issues, including denying federal dollars for Planned Parenthood, were at the heart of the deadlock.
"We agreed to a number and the reason we agreed to a number was to get rid of all of these riders," Reid said, using inside Washington talk for policy provisions attached to spending bills.
Barring an agreement or perhaps another temporary bill to keep the government operating, the shutdown of most of the government would begin at midnight. Many essential workers, such as mail carriers, air traffic controllers and the military, would stay on the job.