The Tea Party-backed Senator "wants to see the final [House] legislation first, but is reluctant to support anything that basically pushes forward with current spending levels," said Lee's Communications Director, Brian Phillips. Lee believes $4 Billion in proposed spending cuts over a two week period represents an inadequate response to a systemic spending problem. "What the Senator is specifically saying is that if we're only going to cut $4 Billion, while continuing to fund everything else at current levels, we need to couple that vote with some meaningful acknowledgment that structural controls on spending are necessary," Phillips said -- citing a balanced budget amendment as an example of the sort "structural control" Sen. Lee is eager to see implemented.
"It's like being unemployed," Phillips explained, "Sure, you need to cut back on your personal expenses, but if you're sitting on the couch and not actively looking for a new job, you're not dealing with the real problem."
Asked if Lee would be comfortable casting the deciding vote against the CR, leading to a government shutdown, Phillips said the Senate freshman "is not comfortable with a government shutdown. Nobody is 'comfortable' with that. But we have been looking into how a shutdown might affect several of our agencies in Utah."
Another conservative Republican, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, has also expressed significant misgivings about the level of cutbacks within the proposed continuing resolutions. He vowed to vote against the full 2011 House-backed CR, arguing its spending cuts were "not even close" to adequate.
The House is currently debating whether to pass a temporary measure that would continue to fund the federal government for two more weeks. The move would give members from both parties breathing room beyond Friday's deadline to negotiate over the longer term 2011 continuing resolution passed by the House last month, which cuts $61 Billion in federal spending through the end of the year. The stopgap compromise includes $4 Billion in pro-rated spending cuts, most of which have already been suggested by President Obama in his 2012 budget. Several Senate Democrats have indicated that they are open to supporting the Republican-proposed two week plan.
UPDATE: The House has passed the two-week CR that shaves $4 Billion in federal spending. The final tally: 335-91. Republicans have now acted twice in just over two weeks to prevent a government shutdown. With Democratic opposition collapsing, the Senate is expected to adopt the measure and send it to the president's desk:
Yielding to the inevitable, Senate Democrats said they would go along — just hours after the White House floated a trial balloon for a measure to provide more time for talks on a longer-term bill to keep the government going the rest of the budget year.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters he expected the two-week bill to go to President Barack Obama for his signature within 48 hours.
"We'll pass this and then look at funding the government on a long-term basis," Reid said.
UPDATE II: A source close to Senator Rand Paul (R-Kent.) tells me he is also inclined to oppose the two-week CR. Stay tuned for more...