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GOP-Controlled House Passes Stopgap Spending Bill

House Republicans passed a largely symbolic stopgap spending bill on Thursday, as congressional leaders met again with President Obama to try to hammer out a compromise that could keep the government from a partial shutdown.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) (R) and U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Ranking Member on the House Budget Committee, address the media at the U. S. Capitol, on April 7, 2011 in Washington, DC. Pelosi spoke about the budget proposed by Republicans for fiscal year 2012.
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Above: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) (R) and U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Ranking Member on the House Budget Committee, address the media at the U. S. Capitol, on April 7, 2011 in Washington, DC. Pelosi spoke about the budget proposed by Republicans for fiscal year 2012.

The measure passed 247 to 181. But Senate Democrats and the White House have already rejected the temporary fix — which is conditioned on $12 billion in immediate spending cuts — saying they want a bill that funds the government through Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year.

Moments after the vote, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) appeared at the White House following meetings with Obama.

"I did ask the president to sign the stopgap measure, and I expressed my disappointment when he suggested he would veto that measure," Boehner said.

Reid said he and Boehner would return to the White House at 7 p.m. for more talks.

"We're going to continue to work to get this done," he said. "If not, we'll have to look forward to a bad day tomorrow, which is a government shutdown."

In a White House statement, the president said the two sides need to "put politics aside and work out the differences" on the funding.

In dueling news conferences held earlier Thursday, Boehner described the latest Democratic proposals as "more of the same."

Reid complained that dozens of Tea Party-inspired "riders" — ranging from a rollback for recent health care legislation to ending government funding to Planned Parenthood — were holding back an agreement. The theme was picked up by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), who said the budget discussion is "no longer about the budget deficit; it's about bumper stickers."

It was unclear how much the talks had narrowed the differences on spending. Boehner recently floated $40 billion, more than the $33 billion that the negotiators had adopted as a framework, but less than the $61 billion that was contained in a bill the House cleared than six weeks ago.

President Obama, speaking after a hastily arranged late-night meeting Wednesday, had indicated that the talks were showing promise, saying that the differences had been narrowed.

"I remain confident that if we're serious about getting something done, we should be able to complete a deal and get it passed and avert a shutdown," Obama said after the discussions with Boehner and Reid. "But it's going to require sufficient sense of urgency from all parties involved."

Later, Boehner and Reid told reporters that the two sides had made progress, but differences remained.

"There's no agreement on a number and there's no agreement on the policy riders, but there's an intent on both sides to continue to work together to try and resolve this," Boehner said. "No one wants the government to shut down."

Reid said: "We've narrowed the issues significantly, and we're going to continue working. Our staffs are going to work through the night."

Even a brief shutdown could affect a wide range of Americans, from troops fighting abroad to tourists planning trips to national parks.

Thursday's Republican measure would combine a full-year Pentagon budget with a big slice of cuts to domestic programs as the price to keep the U.S. government running.

But the president has already ruled out the weeklong measure, and Senate Democrats have labeled it a nonstarter. House passage of any interim measure is designed to place the onus on the Democratic-controlled Senate to act if a shutdown is to be avoided.

At issue is keeping the day-to-day operations of federal agencies going through the Sept. 30 end of the budget year.

A Democratic-led Congress failed to complete the must-pass spending bills last year. When Republicans, backed by a slew of Tea Party-affiliated freshmen, assumed power in the House in January, they voted to slash $61 billion. The Democratic-controlled Senate rejected those cuts.

Democrats have already ruled out agreeing to stop funding the year-old health care overhaul or to deny Planned Parenthood all federal money. And Reid has said he will not agree to any of the curbs Republicans want to place on the Environmental Protection Agency.

NPR's Ari Shapiro and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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