As the White House prepared an offer to cut an additional $20 billion to end the budget stalemate on Capitol Hill, House and Senate leaders ramped up their rhetoric over who would bear the blame if the government shuts down.
The forthcoming White House proposal, which Republicans have yet to see, would look to cut about $30 billion in federal spending overall, $20 billion more than the $10 billion already cut by stopgap spending bills, according to Democratic aides. That’s about half of the $61 billion included in the long-term spending plan approved by House Republicans earlier this year.
Although the White House proposal goes well beyond what many liberal Members want, it’s not clear whether it will be enough to win GOP support. The two sides have in recent days been blaming one another for the spending impasse, and each is facing enormous pressure from its right and left flanks not to compromise.
“Where is the plan?” asked a senior GOP aide who complained that the White House and Senate Democrats had yet to agree among themselves over what to cut or present it to Republicans.
“We can’t negotiate with them until they’re on the same page,” the aide said.
Many of the cuts sought by the White House would target mandatory spending programs instead of discretionary accounts, and administration officials are continuing to resist a host of policy riders on social issues included in the GOP plan.
Senate Democrats had offered an $11 billion package of cuts last week to House Republicans, who rejected it as a non-starter. That package consisted of $7.5 billion from mandatory accounts and $2.5 billion from discretionary accounts.
At the same time, Members have been fighting over where to even begin the negotiations. Senate Democrats wanted to use the earlier stopgap bills as the starting point and build up. House Republicans were insisting on starting with H.R. 1 as the framework for talks, and negotiate down. H.R. 1 is the original plan passed by House Republicans containing the $61 billion in spending reductions.
A senior House GOP aide said Monday that the breakdown over where to even begin the talks does not bode well for Congress’ ability to avoid a government shutdown in two weeks when the current continuing resolution expires. “I don’t think there is a state of play right now,” the aide said.
And even if the two sides strike a compromise, House Republican leaders still have to sell it to their rank-and-file Members.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.