By Russell Berman - 03/02/11 06:06 PM EST
Republican leaders stepped up pressure on Senate Democrats to release their spending proposal following congressional passage of a short-term measure that averts a government shutdown for the next two weeks.
“Passing the short-term bill gives Senate Democrats two more weeks to either consider H.R. 1 or outline their own plan for how they move ahead,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said at a brief press conference with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) after the Senate approved the two-week extension Wednesday.
“Americans have a right to know what the Senate Democrats’ plan to cut spending and fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year is,” Boehner said. “So we’re waiting for them, and hope we’ll see something from them soon.”
Minutes before Boehner and McConnell stepped up to the podium, President Obama said he is dispatching Vice President Joe Biden, White House Chief of Staff William Daley and Budget Director Jake Lew to negotiate with congressional leaders on a bipartisan plan to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year.
Boehner deflected questions about the president’s statement but said “it’s important to make clear that we’ve been in discussions with our Democrat colleagues for weeks. This isn’t something new.”
“Our position is, we’ve passed a bill. It’s out there,” the Speaker said. “We’ve done our work in the House.”
“We have no clue where our colleagues on the Senate side are,” he added.
Senate Democrats, including Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), have begun crafting their own spending bill but aren’t finished.
Senate Democrats have characterized the longer-term GOP continuing resolution as a non-starter because of its deep cuts — $61 billion — and because it includes provisions restricting funding for the implementation of the healthcare law, Planned Parenthood, the Environmental Protection Agency and a host of other contentious departments and areas.
Obama referenced those provisions in his statement, saying any agreement “should be bipartisan, it should be free of any party’s social or political agenda, and it should be reached without delay.”
While Boehner said there’s “no threat of a government shutdown,” he noted that Congress is prone to procrastination.
“If you give Congress four weeks, guess what? They’ll take four weeks,” he said. “You give them six weeks, they’ll take six weeks. We’ve got two weeks. Let’s get the job done.”