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Archive for Tuesday, April 5, 2011

House Republicans draft 3rd stopgap bill to avoid shutdown

April 5, 2011

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— With budget talks deadlocked, House Republicans drafted a one-week bill Monday night to cut spending by $12 billion, fully fund the Pentagon and avert a government shutdown threatened for Friday.

At the same time, they disclosed plans to instruct lawmakers “on how the House would operate in the event Senate Democrats shut down the government.”

The display of brinksmanship came at the end of a day marked by increasing acrimony in budget negotiations, and drew a sarcastic response from Democrats.

“House Republicans should focus on negotiating, not planning dress rehearsals for a shut down that the tea party so desires,” said Jon Summers, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

He said Democrats “remain committed to negotiating a solution that would prevent a government shutdown.”

In a closed-door meeting with the GOP rank and file, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, laid out plans to have the shutdown-averting measure ready, in case no agreement is reached with the White House and Democrats on a bill to close out the budget year.

Apart from the Pentagon money and spending cuts, officials said additional provisions may be included, a possible indication Republicans will try to force Democrats to accept some of their non-spending priorities.

With little progress evident toward a long-term compromise, Obama invited key lawmakers to the White House in search of a deal.

“Time is of the essence,” said White House press secretary Jay Carney, announcing plans for today’s meeting. “We need to get this work done.”

Congress has already passed a pair of stopgap bills to keep the government in operation for a total of five weeks, with a total of $10 billion in spending cuts attached at Republican insistence.

Officials declined to say when Republicans planned to send the new bill to the Senate, but with a deadline of Friday, it seemed possible the weekend would be consumed with maneuvering.

A one-week measure that contains an additional $12 billion would presumably be reassuring to tea party-backed lawmakers who are among the most vocal in seeking to reduce the size and scope of the government.

It would also be difficult for most Democrats to support. But by including the money the Pentagon needs for the next six months, Republicans hoped to increase the pressure on them.

For Republicans, work on the spending bill was only part of an effort to emphasize a determination to cut federal spending. They also arranged to unveil a sweeping 10-year plan on Tuesday to slash deficits by a staggering $4 trillion or $5 trillion over a decade.

Even before the details of the plan became known, Democrats began attacking it.

But for the moment, the main focus was on the threat of a shutdown, the product of intense disagreement sparked by Republican demands for spending cuts.

Boehner relayed word he would attend the White House meeting, but he also emphasized in a statement that the $33 billion total often cited “is not enough and many of the cuts that the White House and Senate Democrats are talking about are full of smoke and mirrors.”

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