Senate GOP whip: Budget fight will not shut down government

The government will not shut down because of a partisan battle over spending, the Senate's second-ranking Republican said Tuesday.

Sen. Jon Kyl (Ariz.), the Senate GOP whip, said Democrats and Republicans would reach a compromise on a short-term spending measure to keep the government funded if a deal for the rest of the fiscal year isn't reached before federal funding expires.

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"Well, the government isn't going to shut down," Kyl told Fox News's Greta Van Susteren in an interview that aired Tuesday night. "Nobody is talking about shutting the government down."

And if Democrats shoot down a Republican proposal to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year, Kyl said they'll be labeled "the new party of no."

A government shutdown has been talked about as a real possibility by lawmakers in both parties, but Republicans in recent days have made an effort to tamp down those concerns. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Tuesday said lawmakers would avoid a shutdown. 

Given the entrenched positions of the two parties, however, several experts said this week that the chances of a federal shutdown are on the rise.  

Congress passed a bill in December that funds the government through March 4. Republicans have proposed a continuing resolution (CR) that would fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year that would cut $61 billion from last year's spending levels and $100 billion compared to President Obama's original spending request for fiscal 2011. Obama on Tuesday threatened to veto the bill if it reaches his desk.

Kyl echoed Ryan, who said this week that Congress would pass short-term CRs to avert a federal shutdown similar to the one that occurred in late 1995 and early 1996, when Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and President Clinton faced off on spending.

The Arizona senator, who is retiring at the end of this Congress, praised the House GOP's spending plan as "a good start on getting a handle on this wasteful Washington spending."

Kyl expressed confidence both sides could reach a short-term compromise on spending that could fall short of what House Republicans want.

"There will be a compromise of some kind," he said. "I think there's enough pressure from the folks in America today to get members of Congress to get fairly serious about cutting spending. Now, maybe it won't be to the same degree our House colleagues want. But I'll bet you that Senate Democrats are willing to take a whack at this. And if they're not, as I say, there's going to be a lot of pressure on them."