GOP advances a 3d stopgap budget bill, trimming $12b

Sets contingency plan for shutdown of government

OPPOSED TO A SHUTDOWN House Speaker John Boehner said a proposed $33 billion in cuts to avoid a government shutdown “is not enough.” OPPOSED TO A SHUTDOWN
House Speaker John Boehner said a proposed $33 billion in cuts to avoid a government shutdown “is not enough.”
By David Espo
Associated Press / April 5, 2011

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WASHINGTON — With budget talks deadlocked, House Republicans drafted a one-week bill last night to cut spending by $12 billion, fully fund the Pentagon, and avert a government shutdown threatened for Friday.

At the same time, they disclosed plans to instruct lawmakers “on how the House would operate in the event Senate Democrats shut down the government.’’

The display of brinksmanship came at the end of a day marked by increasing acrimony in budget negotiations, and drew a sarcastic response from Democrats.

“House Republicans should focus on negotiating, not planning dress rehearsals for a shutdown that the Tea Party so desires,’’ said Jon Summers, a spokesman for Senate majority leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat.

He said Democrats “remain committed to negotiating a solution that would prevent a government shutdown.’’

In a closed-door meeting with the GOP rank and file, House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, laid out plans to have the shutdown-averting measure ready, in case no agreement is reached with the White House and Democrats on a bill to close out the budget year.

Apart from the Pentagon money and spending cuts, officials said additional provisions may be included, a possible indication Republicans will try to force Democrats to accept some of their nonspending priorities.

With little progress evident toward a long-term compromise, Obama invited key lawmakers to the White House in search of a deal.

“Time is of the essence,’’ said White House press secretary Jay Carney, announcing plans for the meeting today. “We need to get this work done.’’

Congress has already passed a pair of stopgap bills to keep the government in operation for a total of five weeks, with a total of $10 billion in spending cuts attached at Republican insistence.

Officials declined to say when Republicans planned to send the new bill to the Senate, but with a deadline of Friday, it seemed possible the weekend would be consumed with maneuvering.

A one-week measure that contains an additional $12 billion would presumably be reassuring to Tea Party-backed lawmakers, who are among the most vocal in seeking to reduce the size and scope of the government.

It would also be difficult for most Democrats to support. But by including the money the Pentagon needs for the next six months, Republicans hoped to increase the pressure on them.

For Republicans, work on the spending bill was only part of an effort to emphasize a determination to cut federal spending. They also arranged to unveil a sweeping 10-year plan today to slash deficits by a staggering $4 trillion or $5 trillion over a decade.

Even before the details of the plan became known, Democrats began attacking it.

But for the moment, the main focus was on the threat of a shutdown, the product of intense disagreement sparked by Republican demands for spending cuts.

Boehner relayed word he would attend the White House meeting, but he also emphasized in a statement that the $33 billion total often cited “is not enough and many of the cuts that the White House and Senate Democrats are talking about are full of smoke and mirrors.’’

Boehner has said repeatedly he does not want a shutdown. Yet a new public opinion poll underscored the political dilemma confronting the leader of a conservative majority swept into power with the support of Tea Party supporters.

In a survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, 68 percent of Tea Party adherents said lawmakers should stick to their principles in the budget negotiations, even if it means the government shuts down.

Yet in the population as a whole, only 36 percent supported that view, according to the survey, and only 38 percent of independents, who comprise a key swing vote in any election.

In remarks on the Senate floor, Reid emphasized a similar point. Tea Party Republicans, the Nevada Democrat said, “stomp their feet and call ‘compromise’ a dirty word and insist on a budget that will hurt America rather than help it.’’

He said a deeper-cutting, House-passed bill “slashes programs for the sake of slashing programs. It chops zeroes off the budget for nothing more than bragging rights.’’

Joining Boehner in a Republican rebuttal was Representative Hal Rogers of Kentucky, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. He accused Reid of “dictating the use of gimmicks and phony accounting to sneak more spending through the Congress and by the American people.’’