Mike Needham

Great leaders rise to the occasion, and just five days ahead of a government shutdown, we know all we need to know about President Obama and Harry Reid’s Senate: They are fundamentally unserious about reining in spending.

With funding for the government set to expire on Friday, you would think there would be a sense of urgency in the White House and in the Senate to get things done. After all, nine days ago, the House passed a bill that would fund the government and cut spending by $61 billion (a miniscule percentage of a $1.5 trillion deficit and nearly $4 trillion total federal budget).

Through this entire debate, the Obama White House has largely been absent. As the House debated proposal, the President issued a veto threat. He did not accompany that veto threat with his own vision for spending cuts. Nor did his budget that he released do anything to tackle the serious long-term issue of entitlements. So much for leadership. At least Mr. Reid has placed cuts on the table, right? Wrong. The Washington Post helpfully points out that Mr. Reid “is playing with figures to conjure up $41 billion in cuts that are largely illusory.” So the Senate Majority Leader is not only failing to lead, but is also “being disingenuous and not very truthful.”

Where does that leave us?

In an effort to avoid a shutdown, House Republicans have offered up a two-week funding measure that would cut about $4 billion in spending. Not only was this a wise move tactically by House Republicans, they also did not compromise on the level of cuts – cutting $4 billion in two weeks is on par with cutting $61 billion over seven months. A spokesman for Mr. Reid was indignant, saying it was “simply” a “two-week version of the reckless measure” passed by House Republicans nine days ago.

Only in Washington could cutting $4 billion be considered reckless when we have a $1.5 trillion deficit. To be clear, these cuts would reduce our deficit by 0.25%. Is Mr. Reid really willing to shutdown the government over one-quarter of one percent? That is the trillion dollar question.

It is worth repeating why we are in this situation to begin with. Last year, when Democrats commanded huge majorities in Congress, they did not even try to pass a budget, let alone individual appropriation measures. Instead, they decided to punt, and pass a continuing resolution to fund the government through March 4 -- this Friday.

Mike Needham

Mike Needham is the Chief Executive Officer of Heritage Action for America, a grassroots advocacy organization dedicated to advancing legislation that promotes freedom, opportunity and prosperity for all Americans.