IT’S APRIL 4, DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOUR BUDGET DEAL IS?…. The deadline for a budget deal is this Friday, just four days from now. If the House GOP leadership intends to stick to its own rules, and keep a bill posted for three days before a vote can be held, that means policymakers engaged in negotiations will have to have a package largely wrapped by tomorrow.

And while there remains widespread optimism that a shutdown will be averted — optimism I do not share — it’s worth noting that as close-of-business wraps up today, the relevant players don’t seem anywhere close to reaching an agreement.

Negotiations between congressional Democrats, Republicans and the White House to avoid a government shutdown took a turn for the worse Monday, as top Republicans issued coordinated statements calling Democrats’ spending cut goals too low, and preemptively blaming them if the Friday deadline passes without a deal.

“Despite attempts by Democrats to lock in a number among themselves, I’ve made clear that their $33 billion is not enough and many of the cuts that the White House and Senate Democrats are talking about are full of smoke and mirrors,” said House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH). “That’s unacceptable. … If the government shuts down, it will be because Senate Democrats failed to do their job.”

When Boehner throws around nonsense to avoid blame, it’s generally a sign the larger process isn’t going especially well.

The perpetually confused House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor (R-Va.), said the spending-cut target leaders embraced last week are “still far too low,” before blaming Democrats for the possibility of a shutdown. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) joined the fun, saying he wants “real spending reductions,” unlike those Senate Dems are offering, before saying the onus is on Harry Reid to prevent a shutdown.

There’s very likely plenty of push and pull underway behind the scenes, but last week, the relevant players were all “working off the same number,” and the next challenge would be to find the cuts to match the target. As of this afternoon, Republicans are saying rather plainly that this number itself is no longer good enough.

In other words, with the deadline perilously close, the process appears to have gone from moving slowly to moving backwards.

For what it’s worth, the Adult in Chief apparently intends to take a very hands-on role tomorrow.

With less than five days to go before a government shutdown, President Barack Obama is planning a face-to-face meeting with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other Congressional leaders to discuss options, aides confirmed Monday.

White House spokesman Jay Carney confirmed that Obama has invited Congressional leaders to a Tuesday meeting. “Earlier today invitations were extended to Speaker Boehner, Senate Majority Leader [Harry] Reid, [Senate Appropriations] Chairman Dan Inouye and [House Appropriations] Chairman Hal Rogers to a meeting tomorrow at the White House with the president to discuss ongoing negotiations on a funding bill to bring us through the end of this fiscal year,” Carney said at a press briefing Monday.

Boehner has skipped prior invitations to meet with Obama, but aides said he plans to accept this time.

It’s not unreasonable to ask why Obama hasn’t been engaged at this level up until now, but the answer is, regrettably, that more presidential involvement made it less likely Republicans would negotiate in good faith.

There is, however, one potential safety valve — with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) poised to unveil his radical budget plan for the next fiscal year, it relieves some of the pressure to make this year’s spending bill everything the GOP wants it to be. Republicans can, in other words, get some of what they want now, and fight for much more in the next round.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.