House and Senate Republican leaders this morning assertively dismissed the White House’s offer to cut another $6.5 billion in discretionary spending for the remaining seven months of this fiscal year, saying that level of spending reduction is not enough to meet budget-cutting goals.
“Unfortunately, it is little more than the status quo, and the status quo is indefensible and unacceptable,” said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, regarding the proposal from the White House a day after the start of bipartisan, closed-door negotiations over the federal budget and efforts to avert a government shutdown.
Earlier today, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., offered a similar position on the Senate floor, expressing skepticism that the White House offer was even serious, saying it “is unacceptable and it’s indefensible.”
The fight over spending in the current fiscal year, which ends September 30, is the result of Congress's inability to enact a budget last year. A series of short-term stopgap measures has been passed to pay for government operations so far this year. Last month, House Republicans passed a continuing resolution for the remaining seven months of the fiscal year that would cut $61 billion from current discretionary spending levels; Democrats have balked at the level of those cuts.
Earlier this week, Obama signed a shorter-term CR that will keep government operations running through March 18, giving lawmakers two weeks to decide what to do next. That legislation cuts spending this year by $4 billion.
And at the urging of President Obama -- who has called for a spending freeze in his 2012 budget plan -- congressional leaders from both chambers and parties met with vice president Joe Biden on Thursday to begin talks aimed at reaching a compromise for the remainder of fiscal 2011. After the session, Biden said that the meetings will continue.
However, Republicans indicated today that they see Obama’s opening offer of $6.5 billion in cuts as a nonstarter.
“The American people spoke loudly and clearly last November," Boehner said. "They want to cut spending to help create a better environment for job creation. Americans have a right to know: When will Democrats get serious about cutting spending?”
McConnell, meanwhile, accused Democrats of playing politics. “Democrats' whole approach is to see what they can get away with, rather than to actually do something about the debt and jobs crisis Americans want us to address,” he said.
The rancor will continue next week when Senate Democrats call up two bills to show what CR proposal will actually pass the chamber. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he will hold a vote on the House-passed continuing resolution, which includes cut of about $61 billion below current spending; that will demonstrate, he says, that it cannot pass the Senate. Reid will also offer a Democratic alternative, which is expected to fail as well. The point would be to underscore the need for compromise.
The Democratic plan would cut spending about $6.5 billion from current levels.
Durbin said the votes would show that the House-passed CR “goes too far and can’t pass the Senate.” He said Democrats “hope to show we have Democratic support and maybe some Republican support” for an alternative proposal.
Dan Friedman contributed contributed to this article.