By Erik Wasson and Alexander Bolton - 03/01/11 08:34 PM EST
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday Senate Democrats have resigned themselves to passing the House GOP's two-week spending bill despite calling short-term funding measures “a terrible way to govern.”
Reid said that Senate Democrats had made multiple suggestions to Republicans on a different way to proceed — they had proposed a 30-day measure — but that the GOP had rejected them.
“We’ll pass this and then we will look at funding on a long-term basis. The president is going to get involved in this,” Reid said, referring to the House bill, containing $4 billion in cuts, that is expected to pass the lower chamber Tuesday afternoon.
He called many of the House cuts proposed in a longer continuing resolution “wrong headed" and praised a new report by the Government Accountability
Office that identified $34 billion in wasteful and duplicative federal programs, saying that could be a place to start cutting.
But Reid added, “The sooner we get this short-term funding of the government done, the quicker we can move to a long-term CR. That is where we are headed."
Reid said he spoke multiple times with the president, noting that Obama had also called House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). He called it important for the president to get involved so he can use the bully pulpit.
Reid said short-term continuing resolutions are a “terrible way to govern” and that lawmakers would spend the coming weeks addressing the House’s seven-month spending bill that cuts $61 billion. That measure passed the lower chamber last month, but was dubbed dead on arrival in the Senate and by President Obama, who threatened to veto it.
Other senior Senate Democrats had indicated earlier Tuesday that they would accept, albeit reluctantly, the House plan to cut $4 billion in government funding over the next two weeks.
They had said they would try to restore hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for programs they described as crucial, but were not optimistic.
“These are huge cuts,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over the Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Energy.
“The Army Corps and bureau is cut by $554 million, so what I’ve wanted to do is add some back to it,” Feinstein said of the House GOP’s two-week spending measure. “This is levy repair, this if you’ve got a dam that earthen that’s in trouble, it’s bridge repair.”
But Feinstein conceded that she might still vote for it.
“I would support the two-week CR that came over from the House if we could have some flexibility on this Army Corps of Engineers — maybe I’ll support it anyway,” she said.
Like many Democrats, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) doesn’t like the House GOP proposal, which terminates funding for programs that President Obama slated for elimination in his budget and cuts spending in programs ranging from science research to mine safety to special education.
But Mikulski doesn’t want to risk a government shutdown, an increasingly likely possibility if Senate Democrats were to reject the two-week spending resolution the House is expected to pass Tuesday.
“I don’t like this death by a thousand cuts, but I also don’t want a government shutdown,” Mikulski said.
Vulnerable Democratic centrists seemed eager for their leaders to accept a temporary deal on spending.
“It’s really important we get cuts done,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who “does not have a problem” with the House GOP’s two-week plan.
Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), chairman of the Senate Democratic Steering Committee, said he would “reluctantly” support the latest House proposal to keep government in operation.
This story was first published at 2:21 p.m.