House-Senate federal shutdown standoff approaches, as GOP plans spending cuts
Moving ahead with their effort to avoid a government shutdown next week, House Republicans on Friday afternoon will release their plan for a stopgap government funding measure that would include $4 billion in cuts through March 18.
The action will set the stage for a showdown with Senate Democrats, who have dismissed the Republican cuts as extreme and have begun drafting their own short-term measure that would include more limited decreases.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Chief Deputy Whip Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) and freshman Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) announced on a conference call Friday morning that the two-week House Republican plan will be available on the Web site of the House Appropriations Committee later Friday.
"This will be our second action to avoid a shutdown, compared with no action by Senate leaders," Cantor said on the call, referring to the $61 billion in longer-term cuts passed by the House late last week.
Roskam pushed back against Democrats' criticism of the Republican cuts as "draconian," arguing that "the only thing that's draconian is the idea of defending the status quo in Washington."
Senate Democrats began drafting their own plan Thursday to slice billions of dollars from domestic agency budgets over the next seven months. The plan will involve speeding up some of the $33 billion in program terminations and reductions included in President Obama's proposed budget for next year, a senior Senate Democratic aide said Thursday. Democrats are also looking at cuts adopted by the House.
Both chambers return from a week-long recess next week and will have until March 4 to pass a funding measure; otherwise, the federal government will shut down. Both parties have cast the other side's funding plan as "irresponsible" and have ratcheted up their rhetoric in recent days to lay the blame for a potential shutdown on the other party's shoulders.
Asked on Friday's call whether it would be more irresponsible to agree to maintain the status quo or to force the government to shut down, Cantor disputed the premise.
"I just think that's a false choice," Cantor said. "The American people are doing more with less every day and they expect their government to do the same."
In criticizing the House Republican plan, Senate Democrats have cited an analysis by Goldman Sachs projecting that Republicans' proposed $61 billion in cuts over seven months could have an adverse effect on the country's economic recovery, reducing economic growth by as much as 2 percentage points over the second and third quarters of this year.
Asked about the Goldman report, McCarthy noted that the economy hasn't recovered as quickly as Democrats and the White House said it would after federal stimulus spending.
"Wasn't that supposed to be unemployment below 8 percent?" McCarthy said, adding that most members of Congress now believe that "the stimulus was not the answer."
| February 25, 2011; 10:12 AM ET
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