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Obama Threatens to Veto House Legislation Preventing Government Shut Down


The trench warfare on the budget continues.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- House Republicans advanced legislation Thursday to avoid a government shutdown for one more week, cut spending and fully fund the Pentagon, but the White House labeled the measure a distraction and said President Barack Obama would veto it.

Obama said in a statement he believes "we need to put politics aside and work out our differences" on a spending plan that covers the government through September, when the current budget year ends.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, quickly countered with a statement saying he was "confident that those Democrats who believe it is important to fund our troops and make real spending cuts will prevail upon Senator Reid and our commander in chief to keep the government from shutting down."

The exchange occurred shortly before Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., were due at the White House for their second sit-down with the president in a little more than 12 hours.

It marked a sour turn in talks that all three men said Wednesday night were showing promise.

With a partial shutdown looming for Friday at midnight, it was not clear whether it represented a significant breakdown in the negotiations or a final round of maneuvering before a deal was struck.

Obama has already signed two stopgap bills, containing a total of $10 billion in cuts, to allow time for negotiations on a bill to close out the budget year.

Republicans want more cuts as part of any deal, bringing the total to perhaps $40 billion, as well as non-spending items that would curtail the reach of the Environmental Protection Agency and cut off federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

Before departing the Capitol, Boehner urged the House to pass legislation to cut $12 billion, fund the Pentagon through the end of the year and keep the government running for a week.

"There is absolutely no policy reason for the Senate to not follow the House in taking these responsible steps to support our troops and to keep our government open," he said.

Boehner accused the White House of backsliding, adding that there hadn't been as much progress as it appeared after the late-night meeting Wednesday.

"It's really just more of the same. We're going to have real spending cuts. I don't know what some people don't understand about this," he said.

Reid said otherwise, although he, too, made it clear he wants to avoid a shutdown that the White House says would cause problems for combat troops overseas and delay Internal Revenue Service refunds for taxpayers at home.

"The issue is ideology, not numbers," he said.

He criticized Republican proposals to limit the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency and prohibit the use of federal or local funds to pay for most abortions in the District of Columbia.

"These matters have no place on a budget bill," he said.

California Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the House democratic leader, took issue with the Republicans" decision to include defense money in the bill.

"For them to want to disguise their bad proposal by hiding behind our troops is really a disservice to our troops," she said.

Despite Reid's assertion that the two sides largely had agreed on spending cuts, Boehner said partial agreements were not possible.

Boehner recently floated $40 billion in cuts, more than the $33 billion that the negotiators had adopted as a framework. But it was less than the $61 billion in a House-passed bill.

Other policy issues pressed by Republicans include blocking money to put in place Obama's health care bill; effectively stripping the EPA from enforcing rules on global warming, cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay and lakes in Florida; and limiting enforcement of last year's financial overhaul law.

Obama emerged from the negotiations late Wednesday night to declare that differences between Republicans and Democrats had narrowed somewhat. He also said only urgent action could avert a shutdown.

Even a brief shutdown could affect a wide range of Americans, from troops fighting abroad who are awaiting their pay to tourists planning trips to national parks.

The move by Boehner to advance a one-week interim budget measure angered his Democratic negotiating counterparts and came after negotiations at the White House moved slower than had been hoped.

Boehner's move appeared aimed at shifting political blame if a shutdown occurs, but the announcement of Thursday's vote angered Democrats who felt talks were progressing.

It's also about the last piece of leverage Boehner had, using the Pentagon budget to put political pressure on Democrats and to seek to blame them for a shutdown. But after a shutdown, Boehner's options appear to become more limited.

"I have yet to talk to anybody, member or staff, who's been able to explain to me how Boehner's leverage increases during a shutdown," said GOP lobbyist Jack Howard, who worked for House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., during the last shutdowns in 1995-96.

Democrats said privately that the White House was infuriated after Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas - the No. 4 House Republican - accused Obama of leaving the talks to focus on his re-election campaign in official appearances in Pennsylvania and New York City.

Obama had ruled out the weeklong measure Republicans intend to push through the House, and Senate Democrats have labeled it a nonstarter. Republican officials said the details of the bill could yet change. But passage of any interim measure is designed to place the onus on the Democratic-controlled Senate to act if a shutdown is to be avoided.

At issue is legislation needed to keep the day-to-day operations of federal agencies going through the Sept. 30 end of the budget year.

A Democratic-led Congress failed to complete the must-pass spending bills last year, setting the stage for Republicans assuming power in the House in January to pass a measure with $61 billion in cuts that even some GOP appropriators saw as unworkable. It was rejected in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

In event of a shutdown, officials said military personnel at home and abroad would receive one week's pay instead of two in their next checks. Among those affected would be troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and the region around Libya.

Tax audits would be suspended - welcome news to some, no doubt - but there were unhappy tidings for others. Income tax returns filed on paper would pile up at the IRS, and refunds would be delayed as a result.

National parks would close, as would the Smithsonian Institution and its world-class collection of museums clustered along the National Mall within sight of the Capitol. Officials were less clear about the Cherry Blossom Festival, scheduled for this weekend in Washington.

Democrats have ruled out agreeing to stop funding the year-old health care overhaul or to deny Planned Parenthood all federal money. Reid has said he will not agree to any of the EPA curbs.

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