US President Barack Obama on Friday discussed with leading Democratic lawmakers on the government budget issue before a group of Democrats and Republicans start their budget negotiations next week. Obama had a conference call Friday with Democratic lawmakers including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, Josh Earnest, a White House spokesman, said during a press gaggle aboard Air Force One en route New York City. Obama thanked their efforts to find solutions to the budget challenges and reiterated the principle of focusing on growing the economy and creating good jobs for middle-class families. These are the policies that leaders in Washington should support to avoid undermining U.S. economic recovery, Earnest said. A 29-member budget conference committee consisting of lawmakers from both parties, part of a bipartisan deal to end the 16-day partial government shutdown, is scheduled to kick off negotiations next week to reconcile differences between House and Senate budget resolutions for the 2014 fiscal year passed in March. The group is headed by Murray and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan. They have a December 13 deadline. The federal government was forced into the first shutdown in 17 years on Oct. 1, the first day of the 2014 fiscal year, after Republicans tried to tie a government funding bill with changing Obama\'s signature health care law.