Republicans maneuver for cuts as shutdown looms

By David Espo

Associated Press

Published: Monday, April 4 2011 2:31 p.m. MDT

FILE - In this April 1, 2011, file photo House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio pauses during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. President Barack Obama is summoning key lawmakers from both parties to the White House to help speed up budget negotiations and avoid a looming government shutdown at week's end.

Alex Brandon, File, Associated Press

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.

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