The top Senate Democrat pledged Tuesday to move a stopgap budget measure to avoid a government shutdown, and challenged Republican House Speaker John Boehner to “drop the threats and ultimatums” in seeking a solution to the coming federal budget impasse.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) says he is asking Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) to prepare ” a clean Continuing Resolution” that Reid can bring to the Senate floor next week.
Approval of such a stopgap resolution will be required to fund federal operations beyond March 4, the date when the current continuing resolution expires. Without a new budget resolution in place, most of the federal government would have to shutdown.
“Speaker Boehner should stop drawing lines in the sand, and come to the table to find a responsible path forward that cuts government spending while keeping our communities safe and our economy growing,” Reid says. “It would be the height of irresponsibility to shut down the government without any negotiations, as Republicans are threatening to do. A shutdown could send our fragile economy back into a recession, and mean no Social Security checks for seniors, less funding for border security and no paychecks for our troops.”
The GOP-led House approved a comprehensive spending bill over the weekend to fund the government through the end of the current fiscal year, in September, but with dramatic cuts to many domestic priorities that Democrats object to.
The House resolution would slice too deeply into such priorities as education, security, and job-creation, Democrats say. The House bill could result in 870 fewer border patrol agents guarding the nation’s borders. A group of three Democratic senators called the cuts a “giant step backward in securing our border” and say that they could effectively repeal the emergency bipartisan border security bill passed last Congress. The proposed cuts would also reduce funding for border security fencing, infrastructure and technology by $272 million, the Democrats add.
Reid says that approval of a short-term measure as the one he proposes will “give us time to negotiate a responsible path forward” to resolve the budget stand-off.
The Senate leader says the resolution he will introduce will contain some $41 billion in budget cuts which Democrats and Republicans already agreed to.
“By bringing $41 billion in cuts to the table, nearly half of the House Republican proposal, Democrats are demonstrating a good faith effort to reduce the deficit and prevent a government shut down. It’s time for Republicans to do the same,” Reid says. “Democrats believe we should make smart cuts – cuts that target waste and excess, not slash the programs that keep us safe and keep our economy growing. By eliminating 65,000 educators and 800 border security agents, the Republican budget does not fit the bill.”
Scott Nance is the publisher of the news site The Washington Current, formerly known as On The Hill. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.