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Obama again calls for budget deal, another meeting of leaders

From NBC's Athena Jones
FAIRLESS HILLS, Penn. -- As members of Congress struggle to reach a deal on funding the government for the next six months -- with Democrats holding the line against Republican demands for deeper cuts -- President Barack Obama traveled to a wind turbine factory in Pennsylvania to push for continued investments in renewable energy.

But, even as he touted his clean energy agenda, the president opened his remarks by addressing the ongoing budget battle, urging lawmakers to reach a compromise that would avoid a federal shutdown.

"It makes it tough to win the future when you haven't passed the budget from last year," Obama told the audience at a town hall at Gamesa Technology Corporation. "You have to make compromises as a family. That's what we are: the American family. So Democrats and Republicans need to get together, work through their differences, keep the government running so we can focus on keeping this economy growing."

The White House announced late Wednesday that the president, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Harry Reid will meet tonight at the White House after Obama returns from New York, where he is scheduled to attend an event early this evening.

Earlier Wednesday, Press Secretary Jay Carney told the press aboard Air Force One the president reserved to call a meeting with congressional budget negotiators at any time.

"He'll call a meeting at whatever hour of the day is necessary if he believes that progress is not being made, because we are very close to a situation that would bring about a shutdown in government," Carney said. "And he thinks it would be the -- highly unnecessary and the height of irresponsibility to not get an agreement when agreement is so clearly within reach."

The meeting is scheduled for 8:45 pm ET.

The latest stop-gap funding measure expires on Friday and the federal government will shut down if a new bill is not passed.

In Pennsylvania, the president spoke for about 20 minutes then spent another 30 minutes taking questions on issues ranging from the nation's electricity grid, gas prices and how to boost exports and reform the tax code to support U.S. manufacturing to oil imports from Canada, education and energy efficiency.

The energy-related town hall event comes a week after Obama unveiled his administration's plan to boost America's energy independence in part by promoting research and development in alternative sources like wind, solar and biofuels.

The White House believes the country can slash oil imports by about one-third by 2025 through these and other measures, like improving energy efficiency in buildings, raising fuel economy standards and encouraging the use of electric and hybrid vehicles. The president has argued that even during these tough fiscal times, the federal government must continue to invest in areas like clean energy that will help drive job growth and economic growth in the 21st century.

"We've got to pursue every breakthrough, every renewable resource, every technology, every approach to change the way we produce and use energy," he said. "What we want to do is promote all kinds of homegrown energy. That's what's going to help us secure our energy future."

Reducing America's dependence on foreign oil has long been a goal of this administration and then-candidate Obama made a trip here to Gamesa during the 2008 campaign. That goal has taken on new urgency as turmoil in the Middle East has helped spur an increase in gas prices at home to a weekly national average of $3.684 a gallon as of Monday, according to the Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration. That's the highest weekly average since the fall of 2008.

The president has set a series of ambitious energy goals -- like putting 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015 and generating 80 percent of the nation's electricity from clean energy sources by 2035. The administration has provided renewable energy grants to bolster the market for wind turbines, solar panels and other technologies as well as $2.3 billion of tax credits to expand clean energy manufacturing capacity and the president's budget for next year calls for continued investment in such program.

Obama -- who called clean energy "absolutely critical for our future" -- plans to hold another energy event -- the fourth in the past two weeks -- on Friday at an automobile transmission manufacturer in Indianapolis.

NBC's Scott Foster and msnbc.com's Carrie Dann contributed to this report.