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Negotiators to work through weekend to avoid government shutdown

WASHINGTON — Congressional budget negotiators are expected to work through the weekend on a $33 billion spending reduction package, but the two sides remain far apart on details and have little time to vote before Friday's deadline for a federal government shutdown.

It appears increasingly likely that another stopgap measure — the seventh this fiscal year — may be needed as Republican and Democratic appropriators try to decide which domestic programs and services to cut for the remainder of 2011. All sides in the talks hope to avoid another temporary bill, as well as a government closure.

The Republican-led House last month approved $61 billion in cuts, reductions conservatives and tea party activists still favor.

Facing continued tea party pressure, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, insisted Friday that Republicans were pressing for larger cuts. The Senate rejected the $61 billion in reductions last month.

"We are going to fight for the largest spending cuts that we can get, and I'm hopeful that we'll get it as soon as possible," Boehner said.

While negotiators work on details, Republicans want the cuts to hit at education, health, environment and other domestic programs they see as constituting big government. Democrats want to broaden the debate to include the rest of federal budget not targeted by the GOP.

Negotiators also must decide on a long list of political hot-button policy issues, such as abortion and climate change, that are deal-killers for Democrats but vital for the support of some Republicans.

Both sides are working to influence voters. Boehner delivers his party's weekly radio address today, and Democratic leaders, including Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., the Senate majority leader, will argue their case on news shows Sunday.

President Barack Obama told reporters Friday that a deal with Republicans is close. "We know that a compromise is within reach. And we also know that if these budget negotiations break down, it could shut down the government and jeopardize our economic recovery."

Negotiators to work through weekend to avoid government shutdown 04/01/11 [Last modified: Friday, April 1, 2011 11:06pm]
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