WASHINGTON - Republicans pushed legislation through the House on Wednesday to prevent a government shutdown this month while easing the short-term impact of $85 billion in spending cuts - at the same time previewing a longer-term plan to erase federal deficits without raising taxes.
President Barack Obama pursued a different path as the GOP asserted its budget priorities. He arranged to have dinner with several Republican senators at a hotel near the White House in search of bipartisan support for a deficit-cutting approach that includes the higher taxes he seeks as well as savings from Medicare and other benefit programs that they stress.
Any such compromise talks are unlikely to yield fruit for months, if then, although Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, the author of the House Republican budget plan, expressed hope that some progress across party lines might be possible later in the year.
Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, leaves the chamber after Republicans passed legislation through the House to ease the impact of $85 billion in short-term cuts and prevent a government shutdown later this month, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday.
"I think this whole thing will come to a crescendo this summer, and we're going to have to talk to each other to get an agreement about how to delay a debt crisis, how to save this country from a fiscal train wreck that's coming," said Ryan. He added that he had spoken with Obama in recent days, but he declined to provide details.
For now, the divided government's immediate objectives are to prevent a shutdown of federal agencies on March 27, while lawmakers and the White House look for ways to ease the impact of across-the-board spending cuts that kicked in less than a week ago.