LIVE VIDEO: Less Than 3 Hours Away From The U.S. Government SHUTTING DOWN
MSNBC.COM - After both sides huddled behind closed doors this afternoon, the message from both Senate Democrats and House Republicans remained clear. They're still stuck.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, flanked by all Senate Democrats, emerged from a closed-door meeting with his caucus to press House Speaker John Boehner to sell his conservative members on a deal that would avert a government shutdown.
If Boehner and his caucus fail to agree to a compromise that can pass both chambers of Congress before midnight tonight, Reid said, "it will be crystal clear to the American people that Democrats are reasonable and Republicans are responsible for shutting down the government."
Reid accuses House negotiators of "backing off" a base number for cuts that was agreed to in a White House meeting late last night. That deal would have kept discretionary spending cuts at $73 billion and then added additional reductions in mandatory and Pentagon spending, he said.
Now, Democrats maintain that Republicans are holding up an agreement because of their insistence on pulling federal funding for family planning and women's health organizations that also provide abortions.
"They can keep their word to cut the deficit or they can shutdown America's government over women's access to health care," Reid said of House Republicans. "If that sounds ridiculous it's because it is ridiculous."
But Boehner announced after meeting with his members that "almost all" of the policy issues that have been thwarting a deal have been resolved, reiterating that the depth of spending cuts remains the sticking point in his negotiations with Democrats.
"We're not going to roll over and sell out the American people like it's been done time and again in Washington," Boehner said. "We're damn serious about it."
Tempers are clearly flaring in the negotiations as time ticks closer to tonight's midnight funding deadline.
Asked today about his earlier statement that the vice president became visibly upset during last night's talks, Reid responded "Joe Biden wasn't flustered, he was damn mad."
UPDATE>>> Most federal employees have already been given the word -- they're essential, and they'll stay on the job, or they're not, and they'll be furloughed.
Just hours remain before the midnight deadline for Republican and Democratic leaders to agree on a spending plan that would head off a government shutdown.
If there's a shutdown, some non-essential workers will be allowed into their offices for up to four hours Monday to finish up tasks -- but that would be it.
Amid the uncertainty, President Barack Obama had already canceled a trip today to Indianapolis. And now he's canceled a weekend trip with his family to Williamsburg, Va.
Meanwhile, the Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress are disagreeing over what's holding up agreement. Republicans say it's all about making serious spending cuts.
But Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid says the two sides had reached agreement on $38 billion in spending cuts, and that the only hang-up was a Republican demand to cut a federal program that provides women's health and family planning services.
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