The House speaker, John A. Boehner, and Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, did not appear before reporters after the hourlong meeting in the White House, slipping out quietly instead. In a rare joint statement, Mr. Reid and Mr. Boehner said they would continue to work to reach a deal before the government’s authority to spend money runs out at midnight Friday.
“We have narrowed the issues; however, we have not yet reached an agreement,” the two men said in the statement. “We will continue to work through the night to attempt to resolve our remaining differences.”
In brief remarks to the press after the meeting ended, Mr. Obama said he was “not yet prepared to express wild optimism” about the chances to avoid a shutdown. He said that while many issues had been resolved, the two sides remained at odds on several key points.
“There are still a few issues that are outstanding,” Mr. Obama told reporters. “They are difficult issues. They are important to both sides.”
But Mr. Obama said he told the two Congressional leaders that the preparations for an orderly shutdown had already begun and that he expected an answer from them Friday morning about whether they could reach a deal.
“My hope is that I will be able to announce to the American people sometime early in the day that a shutdown has been averted,” he said.
The Oval Office negotiations between the three men started almost 90 minutes late after aides said the staff-level discussions were progressing well toward resolution of some of the key sticking points. But the statement suggested that Democrats and Republicans have been unable to break through the major sticking points, including a demand by Republicans that no federal funds be directed to groups like Planned Parenthood and that the Environmental Protection Agency not be allowed to regulate greenhouse gases.
Democrats have said they believe that those two issues are the biggest remaining roadblock to a deal and that the two sides have largely reached agreement on how much money to cut from the president’s original budget proposal — about $35 billion. But Republicans rejected that assessment earlier on Thursday, saying that no deal had been reached on the amount of spending.
The White House announced Thursday night that Mr. Obama’s planned trip to Indiana for an energy speech has been indefinitely postponed. There was no official word about whether Mr. Obama still planned to begin a weekend vacation with his family in Williamsburg, Virginia. But aides had said he would not go on the weekend getaway in the event of a shutdown.
Earlier in the day, passions ran high in the House debate as Representative Eric Cantor, the majority leader, and Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the chamber’s No. 2 Democrat, exchanged sharp remarks over who was to blame for the looming shutdown, to jeers from lawmakers on the opposite side.
“We never shut down the government when we were in the majority and President Bush had power,” Mr. Hoyer said. “There is a rational way for us to proceed, and very frankly, when we were in your shoes, we did so, when we couldn’t reach agreement with President Bush.”
For his part, Mr. Cantor said the Democrats were at fault for not enacting a budget or the required spending bills last year when they still controlled the House. “We are trying to do the business of the American people,” Mr. Cantor said. “We do not want to shut the government down. We don’t accept the status quo. We don’t want to bankrupt this nation. We believe there is a fiscal crisis demanding urgent action.”
Mr. Reid said that Republicans had “drawn a line in the sand” on issues of abortion financing and changes to the Clean Air Act, and that those issues could not be resolved in the hours left before a government shutdown.
“The numbers are basically there,” Mr. Reid said on the floor of the Senate, adding, “The only thing holding up an agreement is ideology,” referring to the policy provisions, which he said “have no place on a budget bill.” Mr. Boehner rejected Mr. Reid’s assertion that negotiators had settled on the scale of cuts, and that only policy differences stood in the way of a deal.
“There is no agreement on a number,” Mr. Boehner told reporters, adding: “We’re going to have real spending cuts. I don’t know what some people don’t understand about this.”
Carl Hulse contributed reporting.