President Obama said Wednesday night that there is no deal on funding the government for the remainder of the 2011 fiscal year.
Obama, in a statement following a marathon session in the Oval Office with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), said staff would work throughout the night on an agreement.
"There is no reason why we should not be able to complete a deal," Obama said during a short appearance in the White House briefing room, where he was accompanied by senior staff and Vice President Biden. Obama cited examples of how people would be affected if the government shutters, most notably in the form of delays in tax refunds from the IRS.
While there is no deal yet, the fact that Boehner and Reid made a joint press appearance spoke volumes about the efforts both leaders are now making to reach an agreement.
After days of friction between their camps, the joint appearance sent a signal that the two are rolling up their sleeves to reach a deal.
The question is whether it will be too late to prevent at least a short shutdown.
Obama hailed the meeting as "productive," but the lack of any agreement means the government is still headed toward a shutdown after the government runs out of funding on late Friday night, barring any action by Congress.
"We're not there yet, but hope lies eternal," Reid said, saying that the range of issues dividing Democrats and Republicans had "narrowed."
Boehner said there was no agreement on either the amount of spending or the inclusion of policy riders — the controversial measures demanded by House conservatives that would end federal support for Planned Parenthood or defund the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), for instance.
"There is no agreement on a number, and there is no agreement on the policy riders," the Speaker said. "There's an intent on both sides to continue to work together to try to resolve this."
Boehner also said that no one wants a government shutdown.
Polls suggest voters are split on whom they would blame for a shutdown, meaning Republicans and Democrats alike face political risk.
The White House on Wednesday emphasized the negative impact a shutdown would have on the economy.
Reid and Boehner will meet again on Thursday morning, and Obama said he was prepared to summon both congressional leaders back to the White House for a third straight day of negotiations if necessary. Wednesday night's session lasted for approximately 80 minutes, and was a late addition to the president's schedule, following a trip to Philadelphia and New York earlier in the day.
Obama also characterized the differences between the parties as "narrow," though neither he nor Reid or Boehner specified the dollar amount or types of riders that might ultimately prove acceptable.
The administration and Democrats on Capitol Hill had initially pegged cuts for the remainder of this fiscal year at $33 billion, but Boehner and House Republicans appear to be pushing for deeper cuts. Conservatives in the House could also balk if some of the riders are excluded from a final deal.