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Spending Debate Cuts Both Ways

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According to GOP leadership aides, Majority Leader Eric Cantor has helped sketch out a process for four days of debate on the continuing resolution, beginning Monday.

But while leaders can take some proactive steps, in the end, aides said, the success of the debate will rest on the ability of leaders to manage competing Member demands, time taken for debate and setting realistic expectations in real time on the floor.

Cantor’s goal is to “foster a process to allow Members to offer cuts ... that includes making sure we don’t get bogged down in one issue for a few days,” a GOP leadership aide explained.

Similar challenges face House Democrats, who are still working out a strategy for countering Republicans on the spending bill while also offering their own amendments.

“We need to see [the bill] to make any final strategic decisions,” one Democratic leadership staffer said.

Still, the aide noted that Democrats have been focusing on a unified message on the bill to expose Republicans on the claim that the rule is open and on how across-the-board spending cuts are irresponsible.

“We’ll be pointing out the hypocrisy in areas and the truth about the rule they’ve got to set up,” the aide said. “We’re going to need to tighten our belts, but we want to be strategic about where we make cuts and where we make investments.”

In particular, Democratic leadership is trying to shore up support among conservatives in their ranks who have already signaled a willingness to support the spending bill. To do that, they are hoping to address rank-and-file lawmakers’ concerns at the weekly Caucus meeting today.

Budget ranking member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Stan Collender of Qorvis (who is also a Roll Call contributing writer) and Robert Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities are all slated to speak at House Democrats’ weekly Caucus meeting, according to Democratic aides. Jack Lew, director of the Office of Budget and Management, is also expected to attend, although he is not on the official agenda, aides confirmed.

Democrats have also started to outline a process for Members looking to offer amendments. Lawmakers are being asked to work with the Rules and Appropriations committees on crafting amendments to ensure that they are in order and also so that there aren’t duplicative, according to one senior Democratic aide.

Rep. Gerry Connolly said Democrats are most concerned about broad cuts that don’t distinguish between effective programs and others.

“Obviously Democrat concerns are going to be that important programs not be subject to an across-the-board meat ax,” Connolly said. The Virginia Democrat said he wasn’t sure whether he was going to offer an amendment yet. Connolly said that it’s important to continue to draw blood on Republican hypocrisy over the GOP argument that they are offering an open amendment process.

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