In latest sign shutdown may be averted, Conrad says GOP plan is 'acceptable'
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) on Sunday tentatively signed onto a stopgap measure put forth by House Republicans that would keep the government funded through mid-March, a move that further decreases the likelihood of a government shutdown on Friday.
"It is acceptable to me to have $4 billion in savings in a two-week package, sure," Conrad said in an appearance on CNN's "State of the Union," referring to the cuts included in the measure laid out last Friday by House Republicans. "The makeup of that is up for discussion and negotiation. That negotiation is ongoing, and I'm confident we'll achieve conclusion on that."
The measure currently funding the federal government is set to expire Friday unless Congress acts. Both chambers are still at odds over a compromise that would keep the government funded through the end of September, with House Republicans favoring a $61 billion reduction in spending and Senate Democrats rejecting those cuts as too deep.
Meantime, both sides appear to be nearing agreement on the two-week funding measure introduced by House Republicans late last week. Senate Democrats had initially opposed the measure until it became clear that it would cut $4 billion from programs that President Obama has already proposed eliminating.
Congress returns early this week from its week-long President's Day recess. The House is slated to vote Tuesday on the stopgap measure; if it passes, it would then be sent to the Senate.
While Conrad on Sunday did not object to the Republican stopgap plan, he emphasized that he favors a longer-term agreement, "hopefully through the end of the year," adding that "this two-week business is not the way to go."
Asked whether he was dissatisfied with any particular cuts among the $4 billion included in the stopgap measure, Conrad pointed to the elimination of some federal highway funding.
"For example, highway spending, which I think most everybody says is badly needed in this country, creates American jobs, and also makes America more competitive," Conrad said. "Does it make sense to be cutting there? Many of us don't think so."
The House Republican plan would eliminate $650 million in funding for a one-time Federal Highway Administration program for the states; President Obama had not sought to renew the program in his fiscal year 2012 budget request.
| February 27, 2011; 2:20 PM ET
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