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Boehner won't commit to budget negotiations with Biden, White House

From NBC's Shawna Thomas
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) teamed up this afternoon to tell Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) that they will not be making any more moves on a Fiscal Year 2011 spending compromise until they see what his plan is to fund the government and cut spending.

"I think it's important to make clear that we've been in discussions with our Democrat colleagues for weeks," Boehner said. "This isn't something new. ... The House's position is we passed a bill. It's out there. I think it's time for them [Senate Democrats] to outline for us what's their position to keep the government funded. We've done our work in the House." 

What remains unclear is whether the position the speaker took today is a rejection of the White House's invitation to have Vice President Biden hold talks with both sides to help work out a deal. This morning, President Obama released a statement calling on congressional leaders to meet with Biden, White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, and his budget director to "find common ground on a budget that makes sure we are living within our means."

Multiple times the speaker was asked if would he be willing to take part in that meeting, and he seemed to continually dodge the question.

"I said the House has a position," Boehner reiterated. "Where's the Senate Democrats' position? I don't know where it is. How do you start a conversation where one House has spoken but the other House hasn't? Where's the starting point?"

After today's news conference, Boehner's office clarified that the speaker had not been formally invited by the White House and that the terms of the negotiation were murky, at best, pointing to Reid's comments that entitlements and the debt limit should be part of the conversations with the VP. 

McConnell seemed slightly more open to the White House's meeting saying, "We just heard about this suggestion of the people who are supposed to be invited to a discussion on the way in here, so we'll take a look at what they have to say."

McConnell and Biden had several conversations during the lame-duck session when the White House was trying to broker a deal on tax cuts.