White House cuts next year not enough: McConnell

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 14, 2011 8:38 PM
White House cuts next year not enough: McConnell

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama has offered a spending cut of $2 billion for the coming fiscal year in White House budget talks, far below the level sought by Republicans, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said on Thursday.

"We have not been able to get them to a place that we're comfortable makes a serious difference and getting our spending trajectory headed downward," McConnell said on the Hugh Hewitt radio show.

Republicans are already moving spending bills through the House of Representatives that would cut $30 billion from the current fiscal year's funding levels. Because the Pentagon would get a spending increase, cuts would be even steeper for the domestic programs beloved by Democrats.

The two sides are working on a budget deal that would cut roughly $1 trillion over 10 years from the annual discretionary spending that funds everything from space exploration to law enforcement.

Republicans want as big a cut as possible for the coming fiscal year, which starts October 1, to set a lower baseline for the coming years.

"So far it's been pretty puny," McConnell said of the Democrats' $2 billion offer. "Our response to that is the government borrowed $4 billion today."

Democrats say that overzealous cuts in the short term could hurt the shaky U.S. economic recovery, an assessment shared by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on Thursday.

McConnell also said he is working with Democrats to set up a bipartisan "deficit-reduction committee" in Congress that would examine ways to save money from expensive benefit programs. That panel would report its findings by the end of the year and have the power to move its recommendations quickly through Congress, he said.

(Reporting by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Will Dunham and Christopher Wilson)