Obama: Deal close on budget

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner

WASHINGTON -- A bullish President Barack Obama said Friday that compromise is close with Republicans on $33 billion in budget cuts, and he warned that without a deal the ensuing government shutdown would "jeopardize our economic recovery" just as jobs finally are being created.

Despite his assessment, negotiators reported little progress: Senate Democrats backtracked on a key concession from earlier in the week and Congress' top Republican sounded less optimistic than the president that a breakthrough was imminent.

"There is no number. There is no agreement on a number" on how much to cut, insisted House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who is under pressure from tea party-backed conservatives not to give too much ground. Still, he added, "I am not preparing for a government shutdown."

Funding for the government expires next Friday at midnight, and without action by Congress, a partial shutdown would follow.

The day's events occurred against a backdrop of unusually upbeat news about the economy, which still is recovering from the worst recession since the Great Depression. The Labor Department reported that companies added 216,000 jobs last month, and the unemployment rate fell slightly to 8.8 percent.

Nearly six weeks after the House passed a bill calling for $61 billion in cuts, it appeared the endgame was at hand in the first of what is expected to be a series of political battles over the size and scope of government.

"We will be working through the weekend to forge a compromise," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. At Republican insistence, Congress already has cut $10 billion in spending as part of a pair of stopgap spending bills to keep the government open for business.

Administration officials have been heavily involved in the negotiations on the spending bill, but the president struck something of an above-the-fray note Friday.

"Given the encouraging news we received today on jobs, it would be the height of irresponsibility to halt our economic momentum because of the same old Washington politics," he said.

Shortly before Obama spoke, Reid shifted the Democrats' position on one key element of the talks, in apparent deference to environmentalists angered by an earlier concession.

"Neither the White House or the Senate leaders is going to accept any EPA riders," he said.

House Republicans included provisions in their $61 billion package of spending cuts that would block the EPA from implementing regulations on a variety of industries.

At a news conference during the day, first-term Rep. Tim Scott, R-S.C., said, "The further you get from $61 billion, the less likely" he and the other 86 freshmen Republicans are to support a deal.

But he declined to say what sort of compromise he was ready to vote for.