WASHINGTON — Having dodged the immediate threat of a government shutdown, congressional Republican leaders are looking ahead to talks with President Obama on a long-term budget pact.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Tuesday that he and House Speaker John Boehner spoke with Obama recently and that he expects talks to get underway soon.

McConnell spoke as the Senate wraps up a debate he engineered on a temporary spending bill that would keep the government open while the negotiations stretch through the fall. The measure, expected to clear the House and Senate just hours before a midnight Wednesday deadline, would keep the government running through Dec. 11.

“The president and Speaker Boehner and I spoke about getting started on the discussions last week, and I would expect them to start very soon,” McConnell told reporters.

At issue are efforts to increase the operating budgets for both the Pentagon and domestic agencies still under automatic spending curbs that would effectively freeze their budgets at current levels. Republicans are leading the drive to boost defense while Obama is demanding equal relief for domestic programs.

The conversation between McConnell, Boehner and Obama took place earlier this month – before Boehner announced he was stepping down under pressure from tea party conservatives. Many of those same lawmakers want to preserve stringent “caps” on the spending bills Congress passes every year, and Senate Republicans are generally more eager to revisit the 2011 budget deal that put them in place.

Boehner’s surprise resignation announcement on Friday followed unrest by arch conservatives in his conference who wanted to use the pending stopgap spending bill to try to force Democrats and Obama to take federal funding away from Planned Parenthood.

Instead, Boehner and McConnell opted for a bipartisan measure that steers clear of the furor over Planned Parenthood and avoids the risk of a partial government shutdown – over the opposition of the most hardline conservative Republicans.

Republican presidential aspirant, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, on Tuesday endorsed a partial government shutdown as a way to gain leverage over Obama.

“Why don’t we start out with the negotiating position that we defund everything that’s objectionable … and see where we get,” Paul said in a Senate speech.

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