Washington Report: Budget Showdown Looms

Congressional lawmakers have a choice: Compromise or government shutdown

Could the budget showdown mean lights out for the government? (Image: Thinkstock)

This week, congressional leaders face the unenviable task of making the necessary compromises to prevent a government shutdown when the current temporary stopgap measure expires on April 8. President Obama, in separate calls to House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid this weekend urged lawmakers to quickly negotiate a deal, but also cautioned them against using the process to “further an ideological agenda on issues that have nothing at all to do with reducing spending or reducing the deficit.” The two sides have reportedly agreed on $31 billion in spending cuts, although where those cuts would come from has yet to be decided.

I think we can do this,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, (Nevada) on CBS’s Face the Nation.

Maybe so, but it won’t be easy, particularly for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who may face a revolt from his Republican freshmen, several of whom voted against the last temporary measure. For weeks, Speaker Boehner been calling on the Senate to pass a continuing resolution to fund government through September that can be used as part of the negotiating process.

“We’ve done our job,” he said, pointing to the continuing resolution passed by the House in February. “Now the Senate says: ‘We have a plan.’ Well, great – pass the damn thing, alright?”

But if and when the Senate votes on and passes its plan, odds are the cuts will not be anywhere near the level proposed by House Republicans.

And therein lies the rub.

Newly-elected Republicans ardently believe they owe a debt to the voters who sent them to Congress to honor their pledge to make deep cuts in government spending and significantly reduce the federal deficit by whatever measures necessary. And according to black Republican Tim Scott of South Carolina, many are prepared to vote against any CR that cuts spending below the $61billion already passed by the House. Indeed, if they had their druthers, the cuts would be even deeper.

“I’m not comfortable that $61 billion is enough, but at the end of the day, you probably won’t get more than you ask for,” said Scott. “The further you get away from $61 billion, the less likely you are to have most of us in the freshman class on that vote.”

Rep. Allen West, the House’s other black Republican lawmaker, said that “anything below $61 billion is unfathomable” and believes that the CR presents a defining moment for his party and its leadership. He said voting for less would send the wrong message to American voters and businesses that are being forced to make similarly difficult choices. West also echoed the sentiments of many Republicans last week, charging that the White House has not exhibited enough leadership in the negotiating process. If there is a government shutdown, West said, it will be President Obama’s fault.

“The problem that we have up here is that for whatever reason there are folks that continue to give the president a get-out-of-jail-free card. He’s got to make some hard decisions,” West said. “He put the vice president in charge of budget negotiations and the vice president [went overseas]. He made a decision to enact a combat operation in Libya and then he left [for Latin America]. So I think it’s time that we had some resolute leadership come out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.”

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  • Sebastian

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