The White House proposed Thursday to trim an additional $6.5 billion from federal programs this year as Vice President Biden opened talks with congressional leaders aimed at funding the government through Sept. 30 and averting a shutdown.
With another deadline looming in two weeks, Biden carried the offer to Capitol Hill, where Republicans are demanding sharp and immediate cuts in spending to fulfill a campaign pledge to conservative voters who swept them to power in the House last fall.
The White House proposal falls far short of the $61 billion the House voted last month to slash from current funding levels. But senior administration officials characterized it as an opening bid in a process that is likely to stretch on for days.
“We’re willing to cut further if we can find common ground on a budget that we think reduces spending in the right way while protecting our investments in education, innovation and research,” White House economic adviser Gene B. Sperling told reporters.
At the Capitol, Biden, White House chief of staff William M. Daley and budget director Jacob J. Lew met for about an hour with top Republican leaders – Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and House Speaker John A. Boehner (Ohio) – as well as Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
None would comment as they emerged shortly after 5 p.m. from Biden’s ceremonial office just off the Senate floor. Biden later issued a statement, saying, “We had a good meeting, and the conversation will continue.”
WH Proposes Extra $6.5B in Cuts
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