Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday called for a “reset” in Congress's fight over this year's spending ahead of two key votes in the Senate.
Schumer also said lawmakers should consider mandatory spending and “revenue raisers,” which could include tax hikes, in their talks over controlling spending.
The votes are expected after 3 p.m. Both plans are expected to fail.
The fight between the two ends of Pennsylvania Avenue is about $50 billion in discretionary domestic spending this year, and Schumer on Wednesday argued this relatively small pool of funds has received too much of the attention in the debate.
Schumer, in charge of messaging for Senate Democrats, said revenue-raising measures and mandatory spending must be on the table as well in an “all of the above” approach.
“Rather than continuing the fixation on domestic discretionary cuts, the next offer and counteroffer should incorporate mandatory cuts and revenue raisers into the mix,” he said.
Schumer said mandatory spending is the largest contributor to the deficit, and he specifically suggested that Congress reduce mandatory farm subsidies. He also said Congress should find new ways to save Medicare and Medicaid funds that do not reduce benefits.
Schumer did not mention Social Security in his remarks.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) shot back at Schumer in remarks Wednesday morning on the Senate floor.
“Democrats’ steadfast refusal to cut another dime from the bloated Washington budget has left them no choice, it seems, but to propose raising taxes on American families and small businesses so that they can continue spending at unsustainable levels,” the GOP leader said.
“Republicans, on the other hand, have made a serious proposal to rein in wasteful spending. So to me, at least, the choice before us is pretty clear.”
Schumer warned that a breakdown in negotiations over funding the government the rest of this year could ruin the chances for a long-term fiscal deal.
“This debate needs a reset,” Schumer said. “We need to stop falling into the trap of measuring fiscal responsibility in terms of willingness to cut government, and instead focus on what matters — reining in the deficit.”
Democrats and Republicans are at an impasse in the spending fight, and for the second time this year the prospect of a government shutdown is looming. A continuing resolution keeping the government operating expires at the end of next week, and House Republicans are preparing another short-term measure that would make new cuts to spending as another possible stopgap measure.
Democrats have pressed the GOP to make a new offer in the talks, while Republicans have insisted it is time for the White House to enter the discussions with an offer.
“Where is the president?” Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) asked in a news conference Wednesday morning, repeating the refrain five times in the 10-minute briefing. House Republicans are trying to raise the pressure on President Obama to become directly involved in the budget debate.
“We’re saying, ‘C’mon, let’s see some leadership,’” Cantor said. “We are ready to talk. We are ready to listen.”
If an agreement can't be struck on the shorter-term spending, Schumer argued there's little hope for a long-term deal to address deficits and the national debt.
“The current talks will set a precedent for what is and isn’t fair game for negotiations down the road,” he said. “If everything other than discretionary spending is already being declared off-limits, it’s hard to imagine how we could ever muster the will to go after bigger parts of the budget later.”
Schumer pointed to the negotiations of the “Gang of Six,” a bipartisan group of senators who were members of Obama’s fiscal commission, as providing the framework for a potential long-term deal. Their approach provides the framework for a short-term deal, Schumer argued.
“There is great potential for long-term deficit reduction in the Gang of Six negotiation, but make no mistake about it: Its prospects depend greatly on what happens in the next few weeks on this year’s budget,” he said. “We need to learn from the Gang of Six model of tackling all the major drivers of the deficit and apply it to the near-term negotiations on the seven-month CR.”
—Russell Berman contributed to this article.
This post was initially published at 10:06 a.m.