Obama agrees to $6.5B more in budget cuts


Associated Press

WASHINGTON

The White House called for $6.5 billion in immediate spending cuts Thursday as negotiations opened with tea-party-backed Republicans in Congress seeking reductions nearly 10 times as large in their drive to reduce the size of federal government.

“The conversation will continue,” Vice President Joe Biden said in a one-sentence statement after an hourlong meeting with Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and other top congressional leaders in the Capitol.

Boehner’s spokesman, Brendan Buck, said before the meeting that cuts of that magnitude were “little more than the status quo.”

The talks, in Biden’s private office just off the Senate floor, marked the beginning of an attempt by the White House and top lawmakers to agree on legislation to cut spending and avert a partial government shutdown when current funding authority expires March 18.

The White House proposal amounted to an opening bid in what looms as a politically defining set of talks. Polling shows widespread support for spending cuts, but much of the enthusiasm vanishes when reductions are specified as coming from aid to education, for example, or law enforcement at the nation’s borders.

Republicans passed legislation through the House calling for $61 billion in cuts, coupled with prohibitions on federal regulations proposed to take effect on several industries.

The White House has threatened to veto the measure, and Democrats have attacked it sharply as reckless. But until the meeting, neither had proposed any specific cuts of their own for the current fiscal year.

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