First budget talks set for Thursday

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 21, 2011 2:48 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The opening round of White House-led negotiations aimed at crafting a bipartisan deal to fund the government for the rest of this fiscal year will be held at 4 p.m. on Thursday on Capitol Hill, Republicans and Democratic aides said.

Vice President Joe Biden will chair the meeting, which will include House Speaker John Boehner, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, aides said.

The White House said its budget director, Jacob Lew, and White House chief of staff William Daley also will attend.

Lawmakers have until March 18 to resolve a sharp partisan divide over spending levels through September.

The Republican-controlled House has passed a bill that would cut domestic spending by $61 billion, while Senate Democrats are preparing a measure that would keep funding essentially flat.

"Putting a meeting on the schedule doesn't change the fact that neither the White House nor a single Democrat in Congress has proposed a plan that would ... respond to the voters by reining in spending," McConnell said on the Senate floor.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan and Thomas Ferraro; editing by Bill Trott)