Schumer, Sessions split over progress in spending talks

GOP and Democratic senators offered different views Sunday about whether there has been progress over the weekend in federal spending talks as the deadline to avoid a government shutdown continues to get closer.

The White House and congressional leaders are racing to reach a deal on a spending package for the balance of fiscal year 2011 before the current stopgap plan expires April 8.

Asked on ABC’s “This Week” whether progress has been made over the weekend, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said, “I don’t know that it has.” 

“I think that negotiations continue and they need to continue,” he said.

But Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who leads the messaging operation for Senate Democrats, offered a more optimistic view.

“I am quite optimistic. I think progress is being made,” Schumer said.

He reiterated that negotiators are “working off” a plan to cut $33 billion in spending.

“Now we have to figure out what goes into the number and that is where the discussions are headed,” he said, and renewed attacks on GOP proposals to cut certain education and research programs. 

Sessions, however, said there should be deeper spending cuts. “I really believe we should do $61 [billion] total,” he said, referring to the dollar figure put forward by House Republicans in their budget bill.

Both Schumer and Sessions said they do not believe there will be a government shutdown.