Gov't shutdown averted as House votes $4B cuts

By David Espo

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, March 1 2011 9:53 p.m. MST

The day's events marked the culmination of a slow-motion retreat on the part of Senate Democrats, who had hoped to use the past few weeks to make the case that House Republicans are radicals bent on closing down the government.

As recently as 10 days ago, Senate Democrats supported a spending freeze at current levels through the end of the fiscal year, while making it known some members of the rank and file wanted to make cuts.

Last Thursday, as House Republicans made known their plan for the short-term bill with $4 billion in relatively non-controversial cuts, the Senate Democrats said they were opposed. They said they would agree to reductions only in a bill that carried the government through Sept. 30.

They switched signals again on Monday, as the White House expressed general support for immediate cuts as part of a bill to prevent any shutdown. Reid met privately with Republican House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio during the day, and several officials said later Democrats floated a proposal for a five-week bill with $8 billion in cuts — less than the $2 billion-per-week level House Republicans want.

Privately, Senate Democratic officials expressed displeasure with the White House, saying the administration had remained above the fray in recent days.

Reid gave no hint of any unhappiness, though, telling reporters he expects Obama — who spoke with Boehner by telephone on Tuesday — to become more involved in the next round of negotiations.

"The president's going to take this to the American people because the only message that we have from the Republicans is to wipe out programs that are so important to people, especially people who can't help themselves, the middle class and other programs."

"So, no, we feel we're in a good position. I'm hopeful that we can work something out with the Republicans to get this done," Reid said.

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