WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans maneuvered on two fronts Monday in the federal spending showdown, demanding Democrats agree to more than $33 billion in swift cuts to avoid a government shutdown, even as they readied a separate plan to slash deficits by a staggering $4 trillion over a decade. With little progress evident on the first track, President Barack Obama invited key lawmakers to the White House in search of a deal to avoid a partial shutdown Friday at midnight.
"Time is of the essence," said White House press secretary Jay Carney, announcing plans for the Tuesday meeting.
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio said he would attend on behalf of Republicans. But he also emphasized in a statement that the $33 billion total often cited "is not enough and many of the cuts that the White House and Senate Democrats are talking about are full of smoke and mirrors."
Boehner has said repeatedly he does not want a shutdown. Yet a new public opinion poll underscored the political dilemma confronting the leader of a conservative majority swept into power with the support of tea party supporters.
In a survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, 68 percent of tea party adherents said lawmakers should stick to their principles in the budget negotiations, even if it means the government shuts down.
Yet in the population as a whole, only 36 percent supported that view, according to the survey, and only 38 percent of independents, who comprise a key swing vote in any election.
In remarks on the Senate floor, Majority Leader Harry Reid emphasized a similar point. Tea party Republicans, the Nevada Democrat said, "stomp their feet and call 'compromise' a dirty word and insist on a budget that will hurt America rather than help it."
He said a deeper-cutting House-passed bill "slashes programs for the sake of slashing programs. It chops zeroes off the budget for nothing more than bragging rights."
The House passed the legislation more than a month ago calling for $61 billion in cuts from current levels.
In addition, that measure includes dozens of proposals not directly related to spending, including curbs on the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal regulatory agencies and a denial of funding to Planned Parenthood.
Unlike the House, the Senate has yet to pass a spending bill to close out the current budget year, now more than half over, and Democrats are divided on how deeply to cut. In several weeks of maneuvering, Congress has agreed on a pair of stopgap bills that cut $10 billion, and Obama has signed them.
While much of the leadership's attention was focused on the Friday deadline, Republicans also looked ahead to Tuesday's planned launch of the most far-reaching series of deficit-reduction measures in years.
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., chairman of the House Budget Committee, has said the blueprint would cut in excess of $4 trillion from the budget, far more than the $2.2 trillion that Obama claimed in his own blueprint and on a par with recommendations of a bipartisan deficit commission last winter.
Other officials said that under Ryan's proposal, the annual deficit would fall below $1 trillion at the end of the coming fiscal year but would not be erased by the end of the decade.
The deficit is currently projected at $1.6 trillion for the current fiscal year, and the administration estimates that under Obama's budget, it would drop to $1.1 trillion next year and $774 billion in 2021.
Republican officials said about $1 trillion in savings under their emerging plan would come from changes to Medicaid, the federal-state program that provides health care for the poor.
Spending on hundreds of domestic programs — the accounts at the heart of the talks to avoid a government shutdown — would be returned to levels in effect in 2008, at a savings of hundreds of billions of dollars.
One of the most significant changes would occur in Medicare, which provides health care for seniors, but would not affect current beneficiaries or workers age 55 and older.
Once eligible, they would receive Medicare coverage from private insurance companies that operate plans approved by the federal government. No details were available on what level of service would be assured, or how much financial support the government would provide.
At the same time, officials said Ryan intended to propose restoring at least some of the $129 billion in subsidies that Democrats cut a year ago from a private alternative to traditional Medicare that is already in existence.
The Obama administration and other critics maintained that payments to private insurers exceeded the government's cost for the traditional Medicare program.7 comments on this story
The officials who described the recommendations did so on condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to pre-empt a formal announcement.
Republicans intend to move quickly to advance their new blueprint. They hope to have the Budget Committee approve it Wednesday and push it through the House next week.
The plan is expected to serve as a rallying point for Republicans who took power in January, but it is also likely to give Democrats a ready target to attack.
Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi has drawn attention in recent days to public opinion surveys reporting widespread skepticism about fundamental changes in Medicare.