As Congressional leaders prepared to launch spending talks with White House officials, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi signaled Thursday that Democrats could be open to allowing cuts elsewhere in the federal budget if Republicans would agree to restore funding to programs her party favors.
The California Democrat refused to say how much overall spending she would agree to cut beyond the $4 billion in cuts signed into law Wednesday as part of a two-week stopgap spending bill. President Barack Obama signed that measure, averting a possible government shutdown.
Picking up on a theme that Senate Democrats have been hammering, Pelosi said Democrats had been willing to “meet the Republicans halfway,” citing the $41 billion in savings below the president’s budget request that Congress approved in December’s continuing resolution, plus the $4 billion in cuts in the latest, two-week continuing resolution.
House Republicans have passed a measure to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year that cuts $100 billion from President Barack Obama's budget request.
“As we go forward, let’s see what they put on the table,” Pelosi said of Republicans.
Her comments signaled that Democrats are not offering any specifics heading into bipartisan negotiations. Republicans are citing the House-passed seven-month spending bill, which makes $61 billion in cuts to current spending levels, as their jumping-off point for negotiations.
But Pelosi said she could be open to cutting spending beyond current levels, as long as the specific reductions did not harm programs that Democrats support. She said “any number could be subject to some substitutions.”
“It’s not only the amount of the cuts, it’s what is being cut, and if the cuts are about undermining the education of our children, harming the creation of jobs and also undermining our economic recovery, I think we have to subject those cuts to some pretty harsh scrutiny,” she said. “We have to be smart about how we go forward.”
Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami said Pelosi could be willing to look at cuts that would eliminate waste, fraud and abuse in government.
At the end of the day, Pelosi said she hoped the negotiations between Congressional leaders and the White House could yield agreement on a long-term spending bill that would avert a government shutdown.
“We all know what the American people want,” Pelosi said. “They want us to work together to keep government open. ... It’s not about brinksmanship. It’s about finding common ground. We want to find that common ground on the high ground of a better future for our children.”
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.