By Mike Lillis - 03/08/11 06:34 PM EST
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Tuesday Democrats have come “more than halfway" in negotiations to cut billions of dollars in federal spending this fiscal year — and Republicans have not budged “a single inch.”
As Congress jousts over how to fund the government through September, Hoyer said he’s waiting for GOP leaders to offer the next set of concessions.
Republicans have dismissed the Democrats' argument as fiction, because the numbers are derived relative to President Obama's 2011 budget request – which was never enacted – rather than current spending levels.
“That is essentially the status quo – and the status quo on Washington spending is unacceptable to the American people,” Michael Steel, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), said Tuesday in an e-mail.
Yet Republicans are also leaning on Obama's never-passed 2011 budget to argue that they've proposed to cut $100 billion this year, as promised in their "Pledge to America." That figure drops to $61 billion when compared to current spending.
Asked which party has the responsibility of making the next move, Steel did not respond.
Hoyer said he expects Republicans to offer some counter-proposal as early as Wednesday, following votes on two partisan spending bills in the Senate; Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday accused Republicans of backing down on a deal to hold those up-or-down votes.
Hoyer said Democrats will be encouraged if the GOP counter-offer resembles "what any reasonable person would think is a compromise."
"We cannot continue to fund government on two-week extensions," he warned.
Republicans, however, appear less optimistic about reaching a quick agreement: House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) indicated Tuesday that GOP leaders are already eyeing another short-term continuing resolution (CR).
“Republicans will be prepared in the House to do another two-, three- or four-week CR," McCarthy said at a breakfast hosted by The Christian Science Monitor. "But each time, we’re going to go at it taking more bites, making sure we have cuts out there that will make the economy stronger.”
GOP leaders are pushing legislation to cut an additional $57 billion below current spending levels. The proposal would fund the government through fiscal year 2011, which ends Sept. 30. A temporary funding bill, enacted in December, allocated $41 billion less than Obama's request.
Democratic leaders have rejected the $57 billion in new cuts as a threat to the fragile economic recovery. The impasse forced lawmakers last week to pass a 14-day stopgap bill to prevent a government shutdown. That temporary measure, which included $4 billion in cuts proposed in Obama's 2012 budget request, expires March 18.
Behind Vice President Biden, Democratic leaders last week offered an additional $6.5 billion in cuts this fiscal year. By the Democrats' math, that concession – combined with the $41 billion and $4 billion figures – brings their offer above $51 billion, roughly half the $100 billion Republicans want.
"The ball is in their court to tell us what they’re willing to compromise on," a Democratic leadership aide said in an e-mail. "We’ve made clear we need to cut spending, not investments. But we’re not going to declare anything on/off the table."
In real numbers, both parties have fallen far short of their stated goals. Relative to current spending levels, the Democrats' $10.5 billion offer – $4 billion of which was already accomplished in the two-week CR – is a far cry from their promise to meet the GOP halfway on their $61 billion proposal.
Meanwhile, the Republican proposal to cut $61 billion this year is well shy of the $100 billion they vowed in their "Pledge."
Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.), who supports even more cuts this year, said he's not sweating the distinction.
"It becomes a numbers game," the Tea party-backed freshman told reporters last week. "I don't like to get into that numbers game."