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Posted at 2:05 PM ET, 03/ 3/2011

House Democrats mum on spending cuts; Republicans say more stopgap measures possible

By Felicia Sonmez

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) stood her ground Thursday ahead of a meeting between congressional leaders and Vice President Biden, saying that Democrats stand ready to work with Republicans on funding the federal government but also making the case that her party has already met Republicans halfway on making cuts.

Meanwhile, House Republican leaders said that if Democrats don't agree to include additional cuts in a resolution that would fund the government through September, they are prepared to pass additional stopgap measures.

"Of course," Pelosi told reporters when asked whether she believed Democrats would be able to compromise with Republicans on a longer-term plan that cuts spending to below current levels. "The fact is that Democrats stand ready to meet the Republicans halfway on this," she said. "That would be fair."

Complicating matters is the fact that Pelosi's "halfway" point appears to refer to the measure currently funding the government, which stands at $41 billion below President Obama's fiscal year 2011 request. That budget was never enacted.

The House two weeks ago passed a Republican-led plan that would cut more than $100 billion from Obama's budget request.

In terms of 2010 spending levels, the House-passed plan would cut $61 billion, while the option House Democrats prefer would maintain current spending levels -- a choice Republicans have criticized as preserving the status quo.

Pelosi emphasized Thursday that Democrats are concerned not just about how much would be cut across federal agencies, but about where those cuts are made.

"As we go forward, let's see what they put on the table," Pelosi said of House Republicans. "But it's not only the amount that's being cut; it's what is being cut. And if the cuts are about undermining the education of our children, harming the creation of jobs and also undermining our economic recovery, I think we have to subject those cuts to some pretty harsh scrutiny."

Republicans said after Pelosi's press conference that Democrats were offering "unserious malarkey" and have not yet offered a spending plan of their own.

"It is remarkable that with families and small businesses tightening their belts and a debt that stifles investment and private sector job growth, former Speaker Pelosi still has not offered a plan that cuts a single dollar from current federal spending levels," said Brad Dayspring, spokesman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.).

Cantor said earlier Thursday that if Democrats don't propose any cuts beyond current spending levels, Republicans stand ready to propose additional stopgap measures -- something both parties as well as the White House have said they'd like to avoid.

"We have put our plan out there to cut $100 billion over the next seven months," Cantor said after a news conference Thursday morning. "We've also demonstrated our commitment to not shutting the government down but to cutting spending, which is why we proffered our two-week version here. And if the Democrats can't demonstrate that they've got any plan other than the status quo, we will continue to offer these stopgap measures until they join us in wanting to cut spending."

His comments appeared to echo remarks made Thursday morning by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who said he could "possibly" see Congress passing a series of short-term spending measures.

Pelosi, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) are slated to meet later Thursday with Biden and other administration officials, including Chief of Staff Bill Daley and Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew.

By Felicia Sonmez  | March 3, 2011; 2:05 PM ET
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