As a deadline to forestall a government shutdown looms and House Republicans prepare to introduce their budget alternative for next year, fiscal issues dominated Sunday’s political talk shows but lawmakers hardly budged from their usual positions.
House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, who is expected to unveil his budget on Tuesday, promoted his plan on Fox News Sunday but revealed little in the way of specifics, instead forecasting broad spending cuts, no tax increases, and changes to health care entitlements based on his work with Democratic fiscal expert Alice Rivlin.
Nonetheless, the Wisconsin Republican anticipated political criticism from the Democrats.
"We are we are giving them a political weapon to go against us," he said. “But they will have to lie and demagogue to make it a weapon.”
As Ryan and other lawmakers attempt to pivot toward a long-term debate about deficits and debt, Congress has until this Friday, April 8, to agree on spending levels for the remainder of the current fiscal year, or else the government will be forced to shut down.
Democrats are pushing an agreement that would cut spending by about $74 billion from President Obama’s never-enacted budget request, or about $30 billion in real spending cuts, while Republicans are agitating for approximately $60 billion in real cuts and a number of controversial policy riders, like those included in a spending bill that passed the House.
As negotiations continue, Democrats are highlighting the pressure being put on Speaker John Boehner by conservative freshman Republicans in the House and their allies in the tea party movement. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., was overheard by reporters last week urging his colleagues to cast the tea party as extreme.
"I have no problem with reporters hearing that," Schumer said on Sunday. "I said it a few hours before on the floor of the senate. The tea party is the group standing in the way. Any group that says you don't cut oil subsidies to companies making billions and billions of dollars, and at the same time says cut student aid... I believe they're extreme."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid appeared on CBS's Face the Nation with a similar message, arguing that Republican cuts hit children and veterans too hard while exempting the oil industry. However, he says a shutdown can be avoided.
"What my friend John Boehner needs to do is say, ‘What’s the best thing to do for the country?’” Reid said. “The Republican leadership in the House needs to decide to do the right thing for the country, [not] the right thing for the tea party."
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, laid the blame on President Obama’s doorstep.
"What we’re lacking is presidential leadership on this issue,” Cornyn, who heads up the Senate Republicans’ political committee. “You see him planning his announcement for his reelection bid next week -- really, where are your priorities?"
While Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., agreed that presidential leadership is needed, he predicted that "we will see the president very engaged in this debate" once the near-term spending debate is settled and a bipartisan effort in the Senate to craft a fiscal bargain begins to gain momentum. But Warner scolded House Republicans for their ideological focus and anti-tax dogma.
“You have all these policy riders, and that causes a shutdown. The American people won’t accept that,” Warner said of the spending bill, saying that real fiscal solutions need to be found in the long term. “The only way you’re going to get there is if you put all of these things, including defense spending, including tax revenue, on the table.”