Dem senator: Senate has accepted House GOP spending plan

As House and Senate leaders haggle over ways to avoid a government shutdown, a Democratic senator said the Republicans’ short-term spending bill – including billions of dollars in cuts – has been largely accepted by upper-chamber Democrats.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said the GOP measure, which would cut $4 billion in federal spending this month, “does not appear to be terribly controversial.”

{mosads}Cardin was quick to note the ongoing debate over the duration of the short-term continuing resolution, with Republicans pushing a two-week extension and Democrats urging a month-long stopgap bill. But the $4 billion figure, Cardin said, “is pretty much agreed to.”

“I’m not happy with it, but it’s a compromise,” Cardin told reporters Monday night.

House lawmakers are expected to vote Tuesday on a Republican proposal to extend government funding through March 18  to allow House and Senate leaders more time to negotiate legislation funding the government through the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.

The approximately $4 billion in cuts are derived from a combination of defunding earmarks ($2.7 billion) and eliminating programs targeted for cuts by President Obama’s 2012 budget proposal ($1.2 billion).

The office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the Nevada Democrat was “encouraged” by the GOP’s short-term proposal. Reid met with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) Monday night to discuss the legislation.

House Democratic leaders have been much less receptive to the Republicans’ short-term spending bill. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), for instance, has pushed back against the proposed elimination of several education programs, saying those initiatives are “not a good place to start” in search of budget savings.

Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) echoed that sentiment Tuesday, noting that Obama’s budget would redirect some of the savings back into different education programs – something the GOP proposal doesn’t do.

“They’re simply cutting money for our schools and not doing anything to help compensate for the cuts to those children,” said Becerra, who plans to oppose the short-term spending bill. “The president was at least going to invest some of those dollars back into school programs.”

Still, the House is expected to pass the measure Tuesday, with the Senate likely to approve something similar this week to avoid a government shutdown after March 4, when Washington’s spending authority expires.

That would set the stage for the much tougher fight over how to fund the government through September. Republicans are urging at least $61 billion in cuts below current levels, while most Democrats are opposed to additional reductions.

Cardin on Monday said the “only way” the sides will reach a deal is by tying the 2011 spending bill to the 2012 budget. The Maryland Democrat said he won’t support spending cuts this year if they’re not part of a broader plan to rein in deficit spending.

Tags Ben Cardin Boehner Harry Reid John Boehner Xavier Becerra
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