Obama calls Hill leaders to White House for talks on avoiding shutdown

President Obama is calling congressional leaders to the White House on Tuesday to try and forge a last-ditch deal on a spending plan to avert a federal government shutdown at midnight Friday.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama's face-to-face meeting with House Speaker Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and others is being called because "time is of the essence."

A spokesman for Boehner confirmed the invitation. "The speaker hopes to meet with the president to discuss the need to keep the government open while making real cuts in spending, and we're working with the White House to schedule that meeting," said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel.

House Republicans, Senate Democrats, and the White House have been negotiating a deal that would fund the remainder of the fiscal year while cutting about $33 billion from current spending levels. The parties are still deciding what to cut to get to that level of reduction, Democrats have said.

Much of the uncertainty about the prospects for a deal seems to hinge on whether Boehner can convince enough members of his own conference to vote for a bill in which the proposed cuts are so much smaller than those already passed by the House. The GOP funding bill cuts $61 billion from current levels.

What Boehner will be able to offer from his side at Tuesday's White House meeting will hinge on the outcome of discussions planned for Monday night with the House Republican conference. Hard-liners in the House GOP have continued to press for nothing less than a spending plan that cuts $61 billion from current levels.

Tuesday's meeting also will come on the day House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is to unveil a fiscal 2012 budget plan that would cut at least $4 trillion from the deficit over the next 10 years, reshape Medicare, and change Medicaid into a program of block grants to the states. But it's the lack of a spending plan for the remaining months of fiscal 2011 that is likely to dominate attention at the meeting.

Obama spoke by telephone with Boehner and Reid on Saturday, urging them to reach a deal and underscoring that a shutdown would hurt the economy. Other lawmakers expected to be at Tuesday's meeting with Boehner and Reid are House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., and Senate Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii.

But whether Congress can reach a compromise funding deal by the Friday night deadline remains uncertain.

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