Republican leadership challenged Senate Democrats on Friday to embrace “reasonable” spending cuts or risk shutting down the government. Having already passed a seven-month continuing resolution that would cut federal spending by $61 billion, House Republicans are set to unveil this afternoon a second short-term spending bill that cuts $4 billion over a two-week period.
In a conference call with reporters, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) said the short-term bill represented a “good faith effort to make bipartisan spending cuts” and give lawmakers enough time to iron out a longer-term proposal. He also reiterated that a government shutdown was “not an acceptable or responsible option for Republicans.” Congress must act to extend government funding before the current continuing resolution expires on March 4.
Cantor pointed out that the GOP will have soon proposed two separate bills to keep the government running, whereas Senate Democrats have yet to produce a single one. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) had floated a 30-day measure that would fund the government at current levels, but Republicans insist that any spending resolution include cuts.
In an effort to entice support from Senate Democrats, the short-term bill will include a number of cuts lifted straight from President Obama’s 2012 budget proposal and will strip out $2.7 billion worth of pork projects left over from the previous spending resolution, in accordance with the government-wide ban on earmarks. “If you take the Democrats at face value, this is an easy thing for them to accept,” said Rep. Peter Roskam (R., Ill.), the deputy whip.
The strategy is fairly straightforward: propose a reasonable short-term plan that Democrats will be hard-pressed to turn down (on top of the long-term package they have already passed). And if the government ultimately shuts down, it won’t be because Republicans failed to make an honest effort. “If Senate Democrats walk away from this offer, they are then actively engineering a government shutdown,” Roskam said.
Party leaders firmly believe that public opinion favors their approach, and recent polling appears to bear that out. Gallup recently found that 62 percent of Americans think the House Republican’s spending package ($61 billion in cuts) was about right or didn’t go far enough. “The American people are doing more with less every day, and they expect their government to do the same,” Cantor said. “Republicans want to see government continue, but we want to see spending cuts.”
On Thursday, it was reported that Senate Democrats were in the process of drafting their own long-term CR, which would also include spending cuts similar to those outlined in the president’s budget, but have yet to produce a concrete plan. The time to act before the March 4 deadline is running out. Roskam said this is a “watershed moment” for Democrats to prove that they were listening on November 2. Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) added that if Democrats refused to accept basic spending cuts, they would be “putting politics before people” and ignoring the will of American voters.
Details of the Republican proposal will be available here later this afternoon.