Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told some Nevada constituents at a breakfast on Thursday that he expects a government shutdown after little progress was made in staff-level talks Wednesday night, according to five people who attended the meeting.
"He said he anticipates a shutdown," said one constituent. "He was very solemn." Congressional aides said the House GOP Wednesday night proposed a bill that included more than $35 billion in cuts, but it was rejected by the Democrats, whose offer was less than that. The GOP is now working on a counter proposal.
Reid's office said he was just expressing his feeling that a shutdown could happen. Later, on the Senate floor, he was decidedly pessimistic: "The numbers are basically there," Reid said. "But I am not near as optimistic -- and that's an understatement -- as I was 11 hours ago."
The White House later announced that Reid and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, would meet with Obama at 1 p.m. Thursday for their second White House meeting in 18 hours.
Against this backdrop, House Republicans on Thursday morning were to begin debate on a largely symbolic bill to keep the government open for another week past the midnight Friday deadline, with a vote set for about 1:30 p.m.
That bill would cut $12 billion from current discretionary spending levels.
House Republicans, as part of their efforts to show they are taking some action in the face of a shutdown, emphasize it would also fund military options through the remaining six months of the fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30