Vice President Joe Biden announced a breakthrough in talks to avert a government shutdown as top aides continued to hash out a proposal with cuts of nearly $33 billion in the 2011 budget.
Although Biden said no deal had been reached as of Wednesday night, he was optimistic that the agreement on the top figure was the beginning of the end to the standoff between House Republicans, Senate Democrats and the White House on how to fund the government through September and keep it up and running past April 8.
“There is no reason why, with all that’s going on in the world and with the state of the economy, we can’t reach an agreement to avoid a government shutdown, because the bottom line here is we’re working off the same number,” Biden told reporters after closed-door meeting with Senate Democrats.
The $33 billion number is below the $61 billion in reductions passed by the House Republicans last month, and as aides haggle over the details of the cuts — some of which would include drawing from entitlement programs — the pressure will be on Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to sell the deal to his conference.
To prep his GOP colleagues, Boehner started talking tough Wednesday, boasting to his conference that House Republicans were going to “kick their ass,” as Greg Sargent of the Washington Post reported.
“If we stick together and keep the pressure on the Democrats, we’re going to win this fight,’ Boehner told his assembled House Republicans,” Sargent reported, citing a source who attended the meeting.
As if tensions weren’t running high enough in the Capitol, Tea Party supporters plan to swarm Capitol Hill Thursday for a rally urging GOP leaders to stand strong on spending cuts.
The top number is not the only issue House Republicans have to worry about in the negotiations. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), a Tea Party mainstay, and other like-minded freshmen Republicans are pushing for much deeper cuts as well as a series of policy provisions the House included in its budget bill, including so-called riders to ban funding for Planned Parenthood and National Public Radio.
King is also demanding a rider defunding the healthcare reform bill, which he said is necessary for Tea Party support.
When asked what he thought of House GOP leaders negotiating with fiscal conservative Democrats to end-run Tea Party supporters in his own caucus, King laughed.
“Good luck,” he said, “There aren’t too many of them left, and Obamacare has a lot to do with that.”