US & Canada

Obama: Government shutdown over budget 'inexcusable'

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Media caption"The last thing we need is a disruption that is caused by a government shutdown," Mr Obama said

US President Barack Obama has said it would be "inexcusable" for lawmakers to fail to reach a budget that would fund the government to September.

Mr Obama spoke after he and Congressional leaders were unable to reach a budget deal on Tuesday.

Without a new budget, the US government will shut down on Friday.

But on Tuesday evening, Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid said he had had a "productive" meeting with Republican House Speaker John Boehner.

The description was nearly identical to a statement Mr Boehner's office released following the meeting, a shift in tone from recent days.

Negotiations have stalled over legislation to fund the day-to-day operations of US federal agencies to the end of the fiscal year on 30 September.

Republicans, urged on by the anti-government Tea Party movement, are calling for far greater spending cuts than Democrats are willing to concede.

Meanwhile Democrats have accused Republicans of linking social policy agendas to the bill, and say the size of the cuts Republicans demand would hinder the nascent US economic recovery.

Since 1 October, the government has subsisted on a series of temporary measures.

Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Boehner and Mr Obama met in an effort to craft a budget that could cut $33bn (£20bn) from this year's budget against last year's spending levels and ensure the government does not shut down when the most recent stop-gap measure expires at midnight on Friday.

'Politics and ideology'

In remarks after that meeting, Mr Obama said his administration and House Republicans were closer than they had ever been to coming to an agreement.

"The only question is whether politics and ideology will get in the way of preventing a government shutdown," he said, adding that he was prepared to meet for as long as it took to finalise a deal.

Image caption House Speaker John Boehner met Mr Obama at the White House on Tuesday

"The last thing we need is a disruption caused by a government shutdown," he said.

Mr Obama said the American people wanted Congressional leaders to "act like grown-ups" in negotiations.

"Everybody gives a little bit, compromises a little bit in order to do the people's business," he said.

Shortly after Mr Obama's remarks, Mr Boehner said Republicans wanted to avoid a government shutdown but also wished to achieve the largest possible spending cuts.

"We believe cutting spending will help us create jobs in America," Mr Boehner said.

Mr Boehner said in a statement that he had told Mr Obama that "in lieu of an agreement in which the White House and Senate agree to real spending cuts", House Republicans were rallying behind another stop-gap bill.

The measure, which includes $12bn (£7.3bn) in immediate spending cuts and enough funds to keep the Pentagon running to the end of September, is aimed at preventing a shutdown, Mr Boehner said.

Shutdown preparations

Mr Boehner said he disputed White House assertions that Democrats and Republicans had agreed to set cuts in spending at $33bn. Republicans want $61bn in cuts.

Republicans on Monday unveiled proposals instructing lawmakers on how the Republican-controlled House would operate if Democrats in the Senate shut down the government.

The White House also advised government agencies on Monday to prepare for a shutdown.

The BBC's Katie Connolly, in Washington, says that although there has not been a US government shutdown since 1995, the US government shut down 10 times during the Carter and Reagan administrations.

Shutdowns happen because a law passed in 1870 prohibits the government from operating if a budget has not been passed, except in the case of emergencies.

But that law has been interpreted to exempt so-called essential services, including national security, air traffic control, in-patient medical services, emergency out-patient medicine, disaster assistance, prisons, borrowing and taxation, and electricity production, our correspondent adds.

Earlier, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin, released a longer-term plan to slash the budget deficit by about $5 trillion over the coming decade.

In a Wall Street Journal article published on Tuesday, Mr Ryan said Republicans would propose cutting $6.2tn in spending from Mr Obama's budget over the next 10 years.

He has also said that lawmakers must find a way to deal with a lack of funds going into Medicaid and Medicare, two government programmes he has said are driving the federal debt.

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