As the media is (rightfully) focused on Paul Ryan's bold 2012 budget proposal, there's a budget-related sideshow playing out inside the Beltway. Will Congress act to prevent a government shutdown by Friday? This question may sound familiar because it's been asked -- and answered -- several times in recent months. As negotiations continue, Senate Democrats are reportedly balking at several proposed ideas. These are the very same Democrats, of course, who refused to pass a 2011 budget when they controlled everything in 2010. These are also the very same Democrats who have introduced exactly diddly-squat in the way of competing alternatives since their first foray fell embarrassingly short early last month. Republicans continue to press for the adoption of H.R. 1, which slices $61 Billion (which almost sounds quaint in the context of the Ryan budget) while funding the government through the balance of the year. That full amount is unlikely to materialize, and Republican leaders are acknowledging that by floating a number of new compromises:
First, on the whole enchilada:
President Barack Obama warned Tuesday that he would not sign another stopgap spending bill without an agreement first on the 2011 budget, even as Republicans upped the ante, signaling that a $40 billion package of cuts might have the makings of a deal to avert a shutdown Friday.
Speaker John Boehner’s office refused comment, but several individuals, Republican and Democratic, confirmed that the Ohio Republican had raised the $40 billion number at a morning meeting at the White House with the president.
"Egads!" Harry Reid exclaims, "it's another extreme, tea party-appeasing plan." That's not a verbatim quote, but it pretty much captures the gist of Reid's whining:
“It seems every step we take, it’s something just to poke us in the eye,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who was part of the same White House meeting. “They are not trying to arrive at the finish line. It appears that they’re going to do everything they can to satisfy the tea party.”
Regretting that decision to abdicate your budget creation duties last year, Harry? Republicans are also peddling another one-week band-aid that cuts $12 Billion, but with a clever catch. Ed Morrissey explains:
[The list of cuts] spreads the pain fairly equally. Defense, however, takes more cuts than any, with rescissions of earmarks alone accounting for over $4 billion in reductions. However, the House bill would fund Defense for the full year, not just the one week period following the expiration of the current CR.
...Politically, that’s a smart move. That takes the “our troops won’t get paid” argument off the table for any future showdowns over the budget, and locks in the spending cuts in the area where Democrats love to challenge the GOP. Instead, Republicans can claim that they have already addressed their own sacred cows and challenge Democrats to do the same.
No deal, say the White House and Senate Democrats. This could be a bad political misstep. If the government partially shuts down after Friday, Republicans -- who have already acted three times to prevent shutdowns -- can say they placed two more middle-ground compromises on the table, both of which Democrats stubbornly rejected.
Democrats appear to have been outmaneuvered by the GOP today. Tick tock, guys. Friday's looming.