By Molly K. Hooper - 03/09/11 01:32 AM EST
House Republicans are preparing a second stopgap spending bill because their budget standoff with Democrats shows no sign of reaching a resolution any time soon.
GOP lawmakers on Tuesday criticized the Obama administration for refusing to offer specific cuts for the remainder of the fiscal year.
Sensing they have the political advantage, some GOP officials on Capitol Hill say they are content with cutting government spending two weeks at a time if necessary. Democrats are strongly pushing back against that idea.
“I personally am opposed to more short-term [continuing resolutions (CRs)]. We have to get the long-term done. Long-term is becoming short-term,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday after the weekly Democratic lunch. “We’re down to about six months now [until the end of the fiscal year]. So I would hope that we can move forward on a long-term solution to the country’s problems as it relates to this short-term budget problem.”
Republicans have vowed to cut $2 billion per week, consistent with the two-week, $4 billion CR that was signed into law last week. That measure expires on March 18.
Meanwhile, House Republicans intensified their pressure on the White House to propose a detailed spending plan to Congress. The administration has endorsed $6.5 billion in cuts, but has not offered specific programs that would be slashed.
Cantor said he pressed White House Chief of Staff William Daley on the issue during a phone call on Monday.
“I said to Mr. Daley, and I will say here, ‘Where is the president’s proposal?’ ”
According to Cantor, Daley said he would talk to President Obama and get back to the majority leader on Tuesday. As of press time, Cantor had not heard from Daley, GOP leadership aides told The Hill.
The White House did not comment for this article.
During a Tuesday breakfast hosted by The Christian Science Monitor, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said, “Republicans will be prepared in the House to do another two-, three- or four-week CR, 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.”
He expressed confidence that Republicans would be able to find additional cuts to move through the House. Last week’s enacted measure cut programs that Obama had targeted in his new budget plan, boxing in Democrats on Capitol Hill.
Republicans and Democrats blamed each other for delaying negotiations on a long-term CR.
Vice President Biden, who was tapped as the Democrats’ lead negotiator, left for a weeklong trip to Eastern Europe and Russia on Monday.
“Because of their lack of action and because of the vice president starting negotiations and then leaving the country, what do we want to do? Have a shutdown? Are we going to wait until he comes back?” McCarthy said.
Reid accused Republicans of dragging their feet on test votes on the White House’s $6.5 billion proposal and the House Republicans’ $57 billion bill. Those votes are scheduled to take place on Wednesday.
It remains unclear if GOP centrists in the Senate will back the House-passed measure. Several senators, including Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), declined to comment on Tuesday.
Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.), who is facing a primary challenge, said he will support the House package.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who previously said his Senate Republican colleagues would coalesce behind the House bill, mocked the White House’s spending plan. He called it “paltry” and urged the administration to get “serious” about making a dent in the federal deficit.
The sides are roughly $50 billion apart. On Sunday, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) indicated he is unwilling to go further than the administration’s $6.5 billion in cuts.
The last government shutdown occurred in 1995 and 1996.
McCarthy said 2011 is not 1995: “This is not a place to play politics for one principled gain, thinking that you are going to get your mojo back over a shutdown.”
Cantor said, “We do not want to shut down the government — we want to make sure that we cut spending and operate this government in a fiscally responsible way.”
Like Reid, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) said he does not support more short-term CRs.
“We cannot continue to fund government on two-week extensions,” he said.
Hoyer also attacked Republicans for focusing their cuts exclusively on non-defense discretionary spending, which makes up just 12 percent of the federal budget. Deficit spending will never be brought under control, he said, until lawmakers take on the popular entitlements, including Social Security and Medicare.
“[Republicans] are distracting the American public with a pretense that discretionary spending is where you have to look,” he told reporters.
Cantor said that Republicans will include their “vision for entitlement spending” in the budget they plan to release in April, adding that Democrats haven’t taken any steps to reform the costly mandatory spending programs.
The No. 2 House Republican addressed reignited Tea Party concerns over GOP leaders’ decision not to waive House rules during the long-term CR debate to allow an amendment rescinding nearly $105 billion to implement the president’s healthcare law.
During debate on the long-term CR, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) offered a measure to rescind that amount. In recent days, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who heads the Tea Party Caucus, has zeroed in on the $105 billion implementation fund. Bachmann repeatedly mentioned it during her appearance on “Meet the Press” on Sunday.
“I don’t quite know where the $105 [billion] number comes from. There certainly [are] monies authorized in the healthcare legislation that now come within the definition of mandatory funding. In order for us to pull that back, there needs to be a law passed,” Cantor said, noting that Republicans want to repeal, defund and delay implementation of the law.
“We did what we did on H.R. 1 [the long-term CR] because it would have required us to waive the rules of the House,” Cantor explained, “and we have said we are going to have our committees look into mandatory funds and we are going to produce legislation that will actually do what needs to be done.”
Mike Lillis, Daniel Strauss, Sam Youngman and Alexander Bolton contributed to this article.