Tuesday, April 5, 2011

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama and the top Republican in Congress failed to produce a deal Tuesday to avoid a partial government shutdown as both American political parties continue their brinksmanship over how much the government will be allowed to spend for the next six months.

Short of an agreement to cover the rest of the budget year ending Sept. 30, the House leader, Speaker John Boehner, said after the talks his Republicans want a bill that would keep the government running for another week and slash another $12 billion in spending. The White House has shown no interest in that approach.

In the stormy conflict over government spending and the spiraling U.S. debt, Republicans opened a second front Tuesday by introducing a spending plan for next year that they say would slash the nation's deficit by $5 trillion in the coming 10 years.

The Republican plan brought forth by House Budget Committee Rep. Paul Ryan far exceeds the $1 trillion-plus in cuts outlined in Obama's February budget in line with recommendations from Obama's own bipartisan deficit commission in December. The Ryan plan blends unprecedented spending cuts with a fundamental restructuring of taxpayer-financed health care for the elderly and the poor.

Boehner: GOP 'will not be put in a box'
The White House sit-down between Obama and Boehner took place against a backdrop of Democratic accusations that Republicans are insisting on harmful spending cuts and attaching their own social policy agenda to the must-pass spending bill. Republicans counter that the White House is pressing budget gimmicks at a time that big cuts are needed to avoid dire financial consequences.

The negotiations were joined by Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

After the meeting Boehner warned that House Republicans "will not be put in a box" of accepting options they refuse to endorse.

While the White House has been heavily involved in the budget discussions, it has tried to maintain a public distance from the talks, with Obama and aides repeatedly arguing that the spending measure is an appropriations function of Congress, not of the executive branch.

It remains unclear which side would absorb public blame and anger if there is no deal and government is forced into a partial shutdown, but there was likely to be political damage and mainstream members of both parties say they want to avoid a shutdown.

Boehner's account of the meeting with Obama and top lawmakers of both parties, released in a statement from his office, did nothing to suggest the White House and Congress were closer to reaching a deal.

While the White House has been careful not to say whether Obama would oppose Boehner's specific plan, the administration believes any short-term spending bill would be detrimental to the economy.

Republicans took control of the House in a landslide last November with much of their success built around Tea Party-aligned candidates elected on the promise of lower taxes, less spending and smaller government. Nearly six weeks ago, the House passed a bill calling for $61 billion in cuts in discretionary spending for the remainder of the year.

The Senate, which also must approve such a measure, never took it up.

Instead both houses of Congress have passed two short-term spending laws to keep government open while cutting $10 billion out of this year's budget. That appropriation runs out Friday.

One-week stopgap measure
A one-week measure that contains an additional $12 billion in cuts could reassure ultraconservative tea party-backed lawmakers who are among the most vocal in seeking to reduce the size and scope of the government. It could also put pressure on Democrats and the White House to offer greater spending cuts.

But there is no visible movement on an impasse over Republican policy "riders" attacking Obama's health care and financial reform laws, cutting funding to a group that provides abortions, and reversing a host of Obama's environmental policies

Boehner said in a statement that the $33 billion in current-year spending cuts cited by Democrats "is not enough and many of the cuts that the White House and Senate Democrats are talking about are full of smoke and mirrors."

Obama has warned that without a deal the ensuing government shutdown would "jeopardize our economic recovery" just as jobs are finally being created.


Post a Comment