When Congress returns next week, House Republicans plan to introduce a two-week CR that would cut federal spending by $4 billion, which is essentially a pro-rated amount based on the $61 billion in cuts (over a 30-week period) contained in the CR passed by the House last week.
On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (R., Nev.) proposed a 30-day “stop-gap” spending resolution to keep the government funded at current levels while a longer-term deal is negotiated. The current continuing resolution expires on March 4.
House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) said this was unacceptable, arguing that even a short-term continuing resolution must contain spending cuts. “The only people who refuse to consider any spending cuts in the short-term CR are the Senate Democratic Leaders like Sens. Reid and Schumer,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said in a statement. “With a massive federal deficit and record-setting debt, the idea that we can’t cut one penny worth of federal government spending is indefensible.”
Meanwhile, Democrats continue to insist that they have “already cut $41 billion” in the last CR, which is blatantly untrue.
This move by Republicans puts pressure on Harry Reid, but even more so on Democratic senators like Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.), Ben Nelson (D., Neb.), Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.), and others, including President Obama, who will be hard-pressed to say no to significant cuts.
Either way, at least one Republican senator won’t be voting for it.
UPDATE: From the Washington Post:
Senate Democratic leadership staffers sat down earlier Wednesday with aides to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in their first formal meeting to discuss the way forward on funding the federal government.
“Republican staff told [Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's] staff that we will move a short-term [resolution] that cuts spending, and that it’s up to Senator Reid to tell Americans what — if anything — he’s willing to cut,” Boehner spokesperson Michael Steel said. “At this point, the House has done its work by passing a [spending resolution], and the Senate has done nothing.”
UPDATE II: In a statement, Harry Reid’s office declares the GOP proposal a “non-starter” in the Senate.
“The Republicans’ so-called compromise is nothing more than the same extreme package the House already handed the Senate, just with a different bow,” Reid spokesman Jon Summers said. “This isn’t a compromise, it’s a hardening of their original position.”
Also, Summers repeats the claim that Democrats “have already agreed to $41 billion in cuts” in the current CR. This, again, is false. It is based off President Obama’s 2011 budget request (which would have increased spending), which was never enacted. Congress simply voted to keep the government funded at current levels in the absence of an actual budget. They didn’t “cut” anything. The Democratic counterproposal remains at $0 (plus the threat of a government shutdown).
Cantor spokesman Brad Dayspring responds: “I’m not sure how Senator Reid rejected spending cuts that he hasn’t seen yet, but it certainly reinforces the notion that he is willing to shutdown the government rather than cut one penny in federal spending.”
UPDATE III: Senate Democrats are looking for ways to cut spending as part of a long-term continuing resolution compromise with House Republicans:
Senate Democrats on Thursday began identifying cuts to the 2011 spending bill that they plan to propose to House Republican leadership in the coming days in order to avert a government shutdown after March 4.
An aide said that that Democrats will put the cuts into a proposed seven-month continuing resolution “in the spirit of trying to narrow the gap” between House Republicans and Senate Democrats over this year’s spending.
The aide said the cuts are being combed from the ones proposed by President Obama in his 2012 budget request released last week.
The aide noted that Obama proposed $24.7 billion in cuts in his budget from 2011 projects. Democrats are trying to see if some of those cuts could be made now, and will also propose eliminating $8.5 billion in earmarks embedded in the current CR funding the government through March 4. Those earmarks were approved in 2010 and continue to be funded automatically.
If all of these cuts are accepted, the Senate Democrats would be more than halfway toward meeting GOP demands of $61 billion in additional cuts this year. However, some of Obama’s proposed cuts, such as one to low-income heating assistance, face steep opposition among Democrats.
“We have said repeatedly that we are willing to negotiate cuts deeper than the $41 billion in cuts in the current CR,” the aide said, noting the difference between current spending and President Obama’s 2011 budget. “The Republicans so far have not expressed a similar willingness to move below their $100 billion. So we’re taking the first step and preparing additional cuts beyond the $41 billion.”
GOP aides say the two-week CR is still being drafted, i.e. the specifics of the cuts are still being worked out, but the bill will cut spending by $4 billion over that time period. It is “likely” to be released sometime on Friday. Expect to see those cuts targeting the same areas that President Obama went after in his 2012 budget in an attempt to win over support from (or paint into a corner) wavering Democrats. Republicans seem confident that they have the upper hand in this ongoing standoff. “Democrats are facing the reality that they’re members don’t just want a freeze on spending that would lock in the status quo,” a GOP aide tells NRO. “I think they’ve totally miscalculated.”