House Republicans ready short-term bill to fund the government

With the threat of a shutdown looming and the divide between the House and Senate widening, the latest GOP offering comes as lawmakers seek an avenue to keep the government open beyond March 4, when the current stopgap measure expires.  

Asked on Thursday if President Obama would sign a short-term CR with spending cuts, White House spokesman Jay Carney said, "I don't want to prejudge different options" and the president "wants to work together to find "common ground" to prevent a government shutdown.

House Republican leaders, including Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerLobbyists bounce back under Trump Business groups silent on Trump's Ex-Im nominee Chaffetz won't run for reelection MORE (R-Ohio), Majority Leader Eric CantorEric CantorBrat: New ObamaCare repeal bill has 'significant' changes Overnight Energy: Flint lawmaker pushes EPA for new lead rule House staffer, Monsanto vet named to top Interior posts MORE (R-Va.) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) held a conference call with freshmen lawmakers on Wednesday to provide some insight into their strategy and what could happen next week. 

"Senate Democratic leaders are insisting on a status quo that has left us with a mountain of debt and a stalled economy with unemployment near 10 percent," BoehnerJohn BoehnerLobbyists bounce back under Trump Business groups silent on Trump's Ex-Im nominee Chaffetz won't run for reelection MORE said earlier this week. "That is not a credible position. Republicans’ goal is to cut spending and reduce the size of government, not to shut it down. Senator Reid and the Democrats who run Washington should stop creating more uncertainty by spreading fears of a government shutdown and start telling the American people what — if anything — they are willing to cut."

The pending House Republican proposal comes a day after Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidWeek ahead: House to revive Yucca Mountain fight Warren builds her brand with 2020 down the road 'Tuesday Group' turncoats must use recess to regroup on ObamaCare MORE (D-Nev.) announced Senate Democrats will try to pass a 30-day measure next week that keeps spending at current fiscal 2010 levels. 

Reid has already rejected the latest House GOP plan, arguing that the current CR makes $41 billion in cuts compared with the White House's fiscal 2011 budget request, which wasn't enacted. 

That request for discretionary spending was $1.128 trillion while the stopgap measure $1.087 trillion, a $41 billion difference, according to the Senate Appropriations Committee. 

As House Republicans lined up their measure for consideration on the floor next week, criticism from Senate Democrats continued rolling in on Thursday. 

"Less than a week after passing a job-killing continuing resolution, House Republicans are doubling down, proposing a 'compromise' spending plan that takes their irresponsible cuts even further," said Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick DurbinDick DurbinTop Trump officials push border wall as government shutdown looms Top Dem: Shutdown over border wall would be 'height of irresponsibility' Sunday shows preview: Trump stares down 100-day mark MORE (D-Ill.). 

"Senate Democrats have already agreed to a five-year spending freeze and $41 billion in spending cuts and we’re willing to go further," Durbin said. "But that requires the sort of good-faith negotiations House Republicans refuse to engage in," he said. 

House and Senate Republicans are opposed to freezing spending at last year's levels included in the CR for the short-term, through the end of the fiscal year or beyond, requesting additional, immediate cuts in spending. 

"Less than 90 days into the job, House Republicans seem more interested in shutting down the government than showing the leadership necessary create jobs and help the economy recover," he said.

President Obama has suggested freezing all discretionary spending at last year's levels for the next five years, a proposal Republicans have said doesn't go far enough to cut the nation's deficits, expected to run about $1.5 trillion this year, and the debt, which has eclipsed $14 trillion. 

Boehner has said he won't consider a short-term measure that doesn't include at least some spending cuts. 

The White House has threatened to veto the spending bill that was passed by the House on early Saturday morning, which included funding reductions for domestic programs and foreign aid.

"The Republicans' so-called compromise is nothing more than the same extreme package the House already handed the Senate, just with a different bow," Reid spokesman Jon Summers said Wednesday night. "This isn’t a compromise, it’s a hardening of their original position."

On Wednesday night a House Republican leadership aide questioned why Reid was shooting down a short-term resolution that has yet to be unveiled.

"I’m not sure how Senator Reid rejected spending cuts that he hasn’t seen yet, but it certainly reinforces the notion that he is willing to shut down the government rather than cut one penny in spending," Brad Dayspring, spokesman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), said in an e-mail to The Hill. 

House Republicans and Senate Democrats have spent the better part of the past few weeks lobbing plans back and forth across the Capitol only to have them smashed in the opposing chamber. With such a wide disparity between what each side wants, the timeframe for a resolution is likely to demand more than two weeks and probably even more than the month Reid is seeking. 

Still, lawmakers will need to face the looming March 4 deadline to decide on the best avenue to avoid a government shutdown, which would halt so-called non-essential government programs.

With both sides jockeying for position to ensure they aren't blamed, the odds appear to be increasing that no resolution will be reached before the expiration of the current bill. 

Meanwhile, Republicans in the Senate are supporting House GOP efforts to make those spending cuts now, as part of this year's budget.

"Freezing in place the current unsustainable spending levels is simply unacceptable," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellDisconnect: Trump, GOP not on same page GOP senator: There will never be full U.S.-Mexico border wall Overnight Tech: Dem wants to see FCC chief's net neutrality plans | New agency panel on telecom diversity | Trump calls NASA astronaut MORE (R-Ky.) said. "And while Republicans are making a genuine effort to cut spending and debt, Washington Democrats can't seem to find a single dime of federal spending to cut, insisting on the status quo, even for a short-term spending bill. But keeping bloated spending levels in place won’t cut it."

Because lawmakers didn't pass any fiscal 2011 spending bills last year, Congress rolls the government's budget into one large measure, holding spending at the previous year's levels. House Republicans are seeking large cuts in those levels for the final seven months of the year before taking up next year's budget plan. President Obama sent his $3.7 trillion fiscal 2012 budget plan to Congress on Feb. 12.