Shutdown more likely as GOP stands firm

Thursday - 2/17/2011, 9:13pm EST

By Jolie Lee
Federal News Radio

The chances of a government shutdown increased Thursday when House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he will not agree to a short-term government spending bill without budget cuts.

He made his comment at a news conference where he was asked if the House would pass even a stopgap measure at current levels.

"When we say we're going to cut spending, read my lips: we're going to cut spending," Boehner was quoted saying in Politico.

The House is working on a package of $61 billion in spending cuts as it debates legislation to keep the government operating after the current stopgap funding measure expires on March 4.

The bill is unlikely to win approval in the Democratically controlled Senate, and an extension of the current continuing resolution may be needed for Congress to work out a compromise.

Boehner's comment that any bill would have to include cuts drew immediate criticism from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). He said the speaker was resorting to threats without any negotiations.

"I am disappointed that Speaker Boehner doesn't believe he has the votes to avoid a government shutdown, unless his members get their way on all of their demands," Reid said in a statement, as reported by Politico. "It is unproductive to resort to threats of a shutdown without any negotiations."

Senior officials at federal agencies are already getting instructions to prepare for a possible shutdown, including cancelling vacations or other personal commitments, according to unnamed sources in the Washington Post.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.