Tuesday's House measure would keep most federal agencies running at last year's spending levels through March 18, in line with two prior bills passed last year under Democratic control of Congress. The cuts include Army Corps of Engineers water projects, homeland security earmarks and $650 million claimed by not repeating a one-time injection of general fund money into highway programs.
Senate Democrats and the White House have reservations about the measure because it's clear it will take longer than two weeks to reach agreement on the broader spending bill and because the $4 billion in cuts over two weeks is the same pace as cutting $60 billion through the Sept. 30 end of the budget year.
"Providing only 14 days for all parties to resolve their differences on a full-year measure is not realistic," said Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee. "Setting up a shutdown crisis every two weeks disrupts the continuity of good government operations and long-term planning. It is not a responsible way to govern."
Democrats say the larger GOP measure would lead to the furlough of thousands of federal workers, pull money out of the economy and risk slowing the fragile recovery. The cuts are far more dramatic than attempted under prior GOP control of Congress, and would hit or eliminate hundreds of programs, including education, food inspection, health research, environmental regulation and public broadcasting, among many others.
At the same time, Republicans in the Senate have leverage that may prompt Democrats in the chamber to go along. Democrats control the Senate with 53 votes, but at least a handful advocate immediate spending cuts and appear unwilling to support a short-term spending bill at current levels.
- See a slide show of 10 effects of a government shutdown.
- See a slide show of 10 budget and spending fights for Obama and the GOP.
- See a round-up of editorial cartoons on the budget and the deficit.