House Republicans “outlined a novel stop-gap spending bill Friday that promises to avert a threatened government shutdown next week — but only if Democrats first accept nearly $4 billion in appropriations cuts as a down payment toward a larger budget deal,” POLITICO reports.
About $2.7 billion of the savings would come from rescinding unspent funds, such as water projects and local economic initiatives, earmarked by past Congresses. The remaining third or close to $1.3 billion is attributed to various program terminations and reductions in highway trust fund related initiatives, ideas which which Republicans said were lifted from President Barack Obama’s own budgets.
The down-payment—or ransom—approach is one devised by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) as he tries to steer past the Mar. 4 funding cut off and still keep pace with his large freshman class, which is insisting on more than $60 billion in House-passed cuts over the second half of this fiscal year.
The resolution now would buy two more weeks, ending March 18, for House-Senate talks, and Boehner is trying to set a less confrontational tone by asking for the least painful reductions up front.
Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) spokesman Jon Summers offered the following press release statement in response:
“When Republican leaders have to hold an entire press conference to try to convince people that they do not want to shut down the government, that’s saying something. We are encouraged to hear that Republicans are abandoning their demands for extreme measures like cuts to border security, cancer research and food safety inspectors and instead moving closer to Democrats’ position that we should cut government spending in a smart, responsible way that targets waste and excess while keeping our economy growing.
“The plan Republicans are floating today sounds like a modified version of what Democrats were talking about. We’re glad they think it’s a good idea, but we should keep our focus on what we need to do to cut spending and keep our economy growing in the long-term. If we need a little more time to agree on a responsible path forward, we should pass a short-term CR for no longer than the next month. But the ‘my way or the highway’ approach Republicans have been taking in the past only signals a desire for a government shutdown that our country can’t afford. We hope this is a sign that they have abandoned it and will work with Democrats moving forward.”
Two Senate Republicans responded favorably to this new proposal today. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), via an e-mailed press release statement:
“I commend my colleagues in the House for introducing a reasonable, common sense measure that not only allows the federal government to continue operating, but also moves the budget in the right direction. The American people told us that our nation’s out-of-control debt is not acceptable and this effort is a small down payment on what needs to be done. I hope that the House and Senate quickly pass it and the President signs the bill to keep the government up and running.”
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), via a press release statement:
“With this proposal that focuses on bipartisan ideas to reduce federal spending, Democrats in Washington will have an opportunity to show that they got the message from the American people – status quo spending is unacceptable; it’s time to reduce spending and bring down the debt. President Obama and congressional Democrats agree with Republicans that these are potential areas to reduce spending, removing any excuses they have offered for demanding their status quo spending levels.
“As a result, there is now a clear path to finishing this short-term measure before the March 4th deadline. By supporting the House bill, our friends on the other side of the aisle will have the chance to ensure that the government remains operational while we work with them to identify additional ways to shrink Washington spending this year.”