Representative Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, said Republicans aren’t seeking to force a shutdown of the federal government and are willing to negotiate on reducing spending.
“We’ll have some negotiations, with short-term extensions with spending cuts in the interim, is my guess,” Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin, said today on CBS’s “Face the Nation” program. “We’re not looking for a government shutdown.”
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted 235-189 yesterday to slash at least $61 billion from current spending, setting the stage for a fight with Democrats that threatens to bring government to a standstill after March 4 when the current continuing resolution expires. Senate Democrats have balked at the cuts and President Barack Obama’s budget office has threatened a White House veto.
Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina and a member of the Budget Committee, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” he hopes the two parties can find ways of cutting spending and called for a passage of a continuing resolution while negotiations proceeded.
Still, he said, “I won’t support a CR (continuing resolution) unless it has some spending cuts.”
House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said on Feb. 17 that he won’t accept a short-term extension of the government’s current spending authority without cuts.
“I am not going to move any kind of short-term CR at current levels,” Boehner told reporters in Washington.
Senator Charles Schumer, a Democrat from New York, accused Boehner of using talk of a government shutdown as leverage in the budget battle.
“Many Republicans have said a shutdown is a good thing,” Schumer said today on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “One thinks they want to use the shutdown to get their way.”
The $1.2 trillion spending bill approved by the House yesterday would ban funds for President Obama’s health-care overhaul and for Planned Parenthood, which provides abortions. It also would scrap “net neutrality” Internet rules and block regulations on greenhouse gases and for-profit colleges.
The legislation seeks to fund the government for the remaining seven months of the current fiscal year, which expires Sept.30. Current spending authority ends March 4, and without continuing resolution the government will shut down.
Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat from Missouri, said the Republicans have taken a “weed-whacker” approach to spending cuts, especially in education. She said she is willing to approve some reductions in current spending in order to get agreement.
Senators Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat and assistant majority leader, and Republicans Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and agreed on the need to work together to avoid a shutdown.
“I hope we’ll find a way to resolve this by reducing spending in a bipartisan fashion,” Graham said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Durbin said on the same program that any shutdown of the government would be “an absolute, utter failure” and urged both parties to “sit down” and negotiate an accord.
“I don’t think we are” faced with a government shutdown, said Coburn, who served on Obama’s deficit panel along with Durbin, on the “Fox News Sunday” program. “I think nobody wants that to happen, and I think everybody realizes that we have to make some significant cuts.”
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad said his Democratic-controlled chamber will reduce this year’s budget by about half what House Republicans are demanding. The North Dakota Democrat has warned that the federal government may grind to a halt if Boehner won’t negotiate.
The Republican plan “will not be successful in the Senate, even though I think virtually everybody understands we’ve got to cut spending,” Conrad said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend.
Ryan said on “Face the Nation” that Republicans will propose “serious solutions” to reducing the deficit. “We can’t keep borrowing, can’t keep spending and making empty promises to people.”
Appearing on the same program, Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the budget panel, said the economy needs to be “fully in gear” before the government can make the dramatic cuts proposed by Republicans.
Risk to Recovery
“Our view is put together a plan now for serious deficit reduction, including serious spending cuts, but don’t risk the fragile recovery,” Van Hollen said.
Obama last week sent Congress a $3.7 trillion budget for fiscal year that starts Oct. 1. The document projects the federal deficit will exceed $1 trillion for the fourth straight year in 2012 before falling to lower levels by the middle of the decade. The deficit for the current year is forecast to hit a record $1.6 trillion, or 10.9 percent of gross domestic product, up from the $1.4 trillion the administration previously estimated.
The Republican plan for the current fiscal year, subject to more than 90 hours of debate prior to yesterday’s vote, would kill more than 100 programs and cut funding for hundreds more.
It would make cuts in programs affecting education, the environment, health care, energy, science and the arts. The Peace Corps budget would be cut by 20 percent and the maximum Pell college tuition grant would be slashed by 15 percent. The Social Security Administration said it would have to furlough employees.
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