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House GOP plans 3rd stopgap bill to avoid shutdown

By David Espo

Associated Press

Published: Monday, April 4 2011 8:07 p.m. MDT

WASHINGTON — With budget talks deadlocked, House Republicans readied a week-long bill to cut spending by as much as $12 billion while averting a government shutdown threatened for Friday, officials disclosed Monday night.

The measure also would include enough money to operate the Defense Department through the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year, the officials added.

They said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told the rank and file in a closed-door meeting he would seek passage of the bill if it became clear it was necessary to avoid shutting the government down.

He presented the plan at the end of a day marked by increasing acrimony in negotiations involving the Obama administration, Senate Democrats and Republicans.

With little progress evident toward a bill to close out the budget year, President Barack Obama invited key lawmakers to the White House in search of a deal.

"Time is of the essence," said White House press secretary Jay Carney, announcing plans for the Tuesday meeting. "We need to get this work done."

Congress has already passed a pair of stopgap bills to keep the government in operation for a total of five weeks, with a total of $10 billion in spending cuts attached at Republican insistence.

A one-week measure that contains an additional $12 billion would presumably be reassuring to tea party-backed lawmakers who are among the most vocal in seeking to reduce the size and scope of the government.

It would also be difficult for most Democrats to support. But by including the money the Pentagon needs for the next six months, Republicans hoped to increase the pressure on them.

For Republicans, work on the spending bill was only part of an effort to emphasize a determination to cut federal spending. They also arranged to unveil a sweeping 10-year plan on Tuesday to slash deficits by a staggering $4 trillion or $5 trillion over a decade.

Even before the details of the plan became known, Democrats began attacking it.

But for the moment, the main focus was on the threat of a shutdown, the product of intense disagreement sparked by Republican demands for spending cuts.

Boehner relayed word he would attend the White House meeting, 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."

Joining Boehner in a Republican rebuttal was Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. He accused Reid of "dictating the use of gimmicks and phony accounting to sneak more spending through the Congress and by the American people."

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