By Mike Lillis
The Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee said Sunday that any spending bills passed next month — even short-term measures — will include spending cuts.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Congress will likely avoid a government shutdown with at least one temporary resolution to provide continued federal funding, but Republicans will insist on cuts in any event.
"We want some real spending cuts. We don't want to accept these extremely high levels of spending while we negotiate how to continue funding the government."
The comments are an indication that neither party is willing to cede much ground as Senate Democrats and House Republicans prepare to negotiate over how to fund the government through the remainder of fiscal 2011, which ends Oct. 1. The current funding law expires March 4.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), senior Democrat on the Budget panel, said he supports the GOP's deficit reduction goals, but not its efforts to cut so deeply while 9 percent of the country is unemployed.
"Everyone agrees that we have to get the deficit under control and that spending cuts have to be a big part of it," Van Hollen told "Face the Nation" host Bob Schieffer. "The question that we've posed is, 'Are you going to be reckless about this, or are you going to be responsible about this?' "
Van Hollen noted that the spending recommendations from the White House deficit commission — a bipartisan panel assigned to help lawmakers rein in deficits — "specifically warned against deep, immediate cuts in the year 2011."
"Why? Because it would hurt a fragile economy," Van Hollen said.
Behind the White House, Democrats are urging targeted spending increases in education, infrastructure and research in the near term, while scaling back corporate subsidies and eliminating tax cuts for the wealthy over the long haul. It's a strategy Republicans have rejected outright.
"High deficits [and] uncontrolled debt mean job creation goes away today," Ryan said.
The Budget chairman was one of three House Republicans who sat on the White House deficit commission. All three voted against the panel's final recommendations.
After four days of animated debate, House Republicans on Saturday passed legislation to fund the government through September. The bill includes $61 billion in cuts below current spending levels — cuts largely opposed by Senate Democrats and President Obama, who's threatened a veto.
"I don't think the Senate will pass these cuts," Ryan conceded Sunday.
Because of time restraints, lawmakers are eyeing a short-term spending bill to keep the government running while party leaders negotiate a long-term plan that can pass both chambers.
Democrats want any temporary continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government funded at current levels. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Sunday that Democrats "already agreed" to cuts in December, when Republicans killed an omnibus spending bill and forced Democrats to keep spending at 2010 levels.
"These cuts are very painful, and many in our caucus didn't want to go along with those," Schumer said on CNN's "State of the Union."
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) had escalated the spending fight last week when he said he won't accept "any kind of short-term CR at current levels."
“When we say we’re going to cut spending, read my lips, we’re going to cut spending,” he said.
Ryan said he won't negotiate the terms of any cuts through the media, but reiterated that Republicans want to bring federal spending down to 2008 levels, before the Wall Street bailout and economic stimulus laws took effect.
Both parties have played with the figures in search of rhetorical advantage. House Republicans, for instance, have said their CR would cut spending by $100 billion. Now Democrats are pulling a page from that book, claiming that current spending levels represent a cut of $41 billion.
Both figures are derived from a comparison to Obama's 2011 budget proposal — a bill that was never enacted.
Addressing Ryan and Van Hollen on Sunday, Schieffer said he's not optimistic the spending impasse will be resolved quickly.
"I don't see how you're very close at all," he said.