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Senate Democrats appear poised to swallow the House GOP’s $4 billion spending cut package to avert a government shutdown this week but are trying to figure out how to avoid getting squeezed again in two weeks.
“We don’t want to be in the same position on March 18,” a Senate Democratic aide said, referring to the expiration date of the proposed two-week continuing resolution.
Several Democratic Senators on Monday lamented the practical effects of not having a longer-term CR while they hash out fiscal 2011 spending.
“The question is not so much this CR, but how many. We are certainly hearing from the Department of Defense that they can’t operate every week or two weeks” with continued short-term measures, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) said.
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) said she is pushing to have the two-week CR proposed by House Republicans extended to one month in order to give lawmakers more time to reach a longer-term deal.
“We cannot run government on monthly installments,” she said.
The GOP maneuver last week — crafting a relatively small package of cuts that targeted earmarks and programs President Barack Obama proposed eliminating in his budget blueprint — put Senate Democrats in an untenable position. They either have to reject the small package of cuts or risk taking the blame for shutting down the government.
Senate Democratic leaders have been warming to the House GOP’s bill while trying to preserve leverage for a longer-term deal.
“I think you’ll see an emerging sentiment that we’re not doing two-week CRs ad infinitum,” another Senate Democratic aide said. “We’re serious about cuts and getting spending and the deficit under control, but we’re not going to have those cuts dictated to us by House Republicans.”
Speaker John Boehner outlined a strategy of forcing through smaller packages of cuts.
“If they won’t eat the whole loaf at one time, we’ll make them eat it one slice at a time,” the Ohio Republican said Sunday during remarks at a National Religious Broadcasters convention in Nashville, Tenn.
The two-week bill uses a mixture of earmark cuts and the termination of existing programs — all of which have been endorsed either by Democrats or the White House — to reduce federal spending by $4 billion.
House GOP leaders were careful to include cuts with the backing of Democrats in order to force Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to support the bill.
So far, that strategy appears to have been successful, and Senate Democrats, at least, have largely been open to the bill.