WASHINGTON, April 4 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama invited congressional leaders to the White House Tuesday to work on a budget compromise, his press secretary said.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said Monday Obama will meet with House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Sen. Daniel Inouye and Rep. Hal Rogers, The Hill reported.
"Time is of the essence, and that is why he called this meeting for tomorrow," Carney said.
The talks will be "more of a leadership discussion, and not a line item discussion," Carney said.
Carney told the White House press corps later "the president believes that there is room -- ample room -- for compromise, for finding common ground, for getting this done" without a shutdown.
"And we take seriously the expressed sentiments of congressional leaders of both parties, that they believe that a government shutdown would not be good for the economy, for job creation, for the American people," Carney said. "So with all that at work here, and the fact that so much progress has been made toward an agreement that everyone can live with, we believe that we should get this done, and get it done because there are bigger challenges that we need to work on together."
But the political posturing Monday turned vitriolic rather than conciliatory, Politico reported.
"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 said. "If the government shuts down, it will be because Senate Democrats failed to do their job."
Roger, the Kentucky Republican who heads the House Appropriations Committee, accused Reid of "attempting to abuse the budget process and limit the ability of appropriations negotiators to complete their work -- dictating the use of gimmicks and phony accounting to sneak more spending through the Congress and by the American people."
Reid countered that the GOP and Tea Party groups are putting "ideology" over "reality."
Politico said the meeting will be on the same day Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., releases his 2012 budget plan. The Hill reported a House budget panel aide said House Democrats are "likely" to propose their own 2012 budget bill this week after seeing the public's reaction to the GOP plan.
The meeting with the president was arranged as congressional Democrats and Republicans have staked their positions on spending limits for the rest of the 2011 budget year and a U.S. government shutdown looms at the end of this week.
If a deal isn't struck by Friday, much of the federal government will be shut down with disruptions and likely political fallout, The Washington Post reported.
Democratic and Republican aides said negotiations were conducted during the weekend to develop a bill that includes $33 billion in spending cuts, despite public comments to the contrary made by party leaders. However, rather than announce a deal has been reached, the potential bill would be floated to determine whether there were enough votes to pass it.
Observers say what's unknown is the reaction of the 87 GOP House freshman elected on Tea Party campaign pledges of slashing government spending.
Another problem facing House Republican leaders is the House rule that requires bills be posted for 72 hours before any vote -- meaning any bill to be considered Friday must be posted by Tuesday night. Republican leaders have voiced their opposition to approving another stopgap measure to keep federal agencies operating a few more days as they finish their work.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee whose district has about 80,000 federal workers, suggests there's a "50-50 chance" of a shutdown. Van Hollen said even a short government shutdown sends a "a very bad signal" to voters and the international community.
"I think it harms people's confidence in the federal government," Van Hollen told the Post.
House Republicans, who approved a plan to slash $61 billion from federal agencies, accused Obama of being too hands-off with the budget impasse.
"We can't keep kicking this can down the road. The president has punted. We're not going to follow suit," Ryan said on "Fox News Sunday."
Reid, speaking on CBS's "Face the Nation," said the negotiations boiled down to whether Boehner can prevent Tea Party activists from "dictating" to leadership on what sort of deal is acceptable.
"It's so easy to do," Reid said. "It's just really, in Washington terms, a few dollars short of being able to do this. It's a question of how we do it."
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