As the House prepares to pass a short-term spending resolution later this week, Republicans continued to call on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) to take action to cut spending and avert the risk of a government shutdown.
“The House has taken action [twice]….The Senate has done nothing,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) told reporters Monday. “I would say to Leader Reid: ‘Go ahead and allow our proposal to be brought up for a vote.”
Last week, House Republicans introduced a two-week continuing resolution that would cut federal spending by $4 billion. That is in addition to the seven-month resolution it passed the week before, which contained more than $60 billion in spending cuts. Congress has until March 4, when the current continuing resolution expires, to come to an agreement on how to keep the government running — otherwise the government will shut down.
Cantor reiterated the GOP’s commitment to keeping the government running while at the same time making meaningful reductions in federal spending. “It’s time for Washington to reflect the notion that we’ve got to do more with less,” he said, describing the debate on Capitol Hill as one of “defending the status quo versus cutting spending.”
Reid, who had seemed quite content to preserve federal spending at current levels, recently warmed to the GOP’s two-week proposal, as it consists almost entirely of spending reductions outlined in President Obama’s budget, as well as the elimination of earmarks leftover from the previous year. Reid’s spokesman said Democrats were “encouraged” by the Republican plan, but pressed for a longer-term solution. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) on the other hand, was not so receptive.
Cantor said Republican were thrilled to see Reid, as well as other Senate Democrats, indicating support for their proposal, and wondered (half-sarcastically, no doubt) whether Democrats would continue to adopt the GOP position on spending cuts. “We don’t see why there’s any reason in the world the Senate doesn’t accept that,” he said. “And if they accept that perhaps they are buying into the notion that we need to return to ’08 levels.”
Republican Deputy Whip Peter Roskam (R., Ill.) concurred: “If you accept the premise that you can cut $4 billion in two week, you can get to ’08 levels in seven months,” he said. “Surely we can continue on that pathway.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) echoed the Republican line in a speech on the Senate floor. “Between maintaining the status quo on spending or cutting spending, the choice could not be more clear,” McConnell said. “Democrats in Congress need to rethink the approach they have been taking up to now. Stop spending money we don’t have.”
Cantor again challenged Reid to hold a vote on the short-term GOP proposal, arguing that it would be almost certain to pass and thus, to prevent a government shutdown for the time being. “I would suggest that there may be a lot more people on Mr. Reid’s side of the capitol that would be supportive of returning to ’08 levels than maybe he would like to believe.” Once a stop-gap measure was passed, Cantor argued, both parties could engage in “fruitful conversation [about] a longer-term solution.”
Republicans also devoted considerable energy Monday to pushing back at a report from Moody’s economist Mark Zandi, which argued that, if enacted, the House’s plan to cut $61 billion over seven-months would harm economic growth and result in the loss of 700,000 jobs. Cantor pointed out that as the “chief architect” of the stimulus package, Zandi was severely lacking in credibility. As you’ll recall, proponents of the stimulus insisted it was necessary to prevent the unemployment rate from rising above 8 percent. Needless to say, it failed considerably. He also sought to clarify exactly what kind of jobs Zandi had in mind. “Is he talking about government jobs? And if so why is the government hiring people it can’t afford to pay?”