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Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin said Sunday that the fiscal 2011 spending bill proposed by Senate Democrats on Friday lays out their ceiling for domestic spending cuts this fiscal year.
The proposed $10.5 billion in cuts to non-defense, non-discretionary spending in the continuing resolution, which would keep the government operational through Sept. 30, are as deep as Senate Democratic leaders will go, the Illinois Democrat said on "Fox News Sunday."
"I'm willing to see more deficit reduction, but not out of domestic discretionary spending," he said. "I think we've pushed this to the limit. To go any further is to push more kids out of school, to stifle the innovation that small businesses need to create jobs" and to hamper infrastructure projects.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) unveiled the Senate Democrats' continuing resolution Friday. It would cut $51 billion from President Barack Obama's fiscal 2011 budget request, versus $100 billion in cuts in a House-passed spending bill that was written by Republicans. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is planning votes on both bills this week.
Durbin appeared on the show with House GOP Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling (Texas). Both legislators were members of Obama's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, and they referenced the need for bipartisanship to reach a deal on spending. But the men were quick to accuse the other party of objectionable budgeting.
Durbin said the House Republican spending bill would wreak havoc on the economy, causing 700,000 layoffs and deep problems in education and medical research. "It is literally, figuratively impossible" to balance the budget by cutting just non-defense, non-discretionary spending, which is 12 percent of the country's total budget, he said.
The Senate must demonstrate to House Republicans and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) what will happen to the House-passed spending bill in the Senate, Durbin said. "My guess is it will not come close to passing," he said.
Hensarling shot back, "Dick says everything's on the table. But in their plan, nothing's on the table."
He accused Obama of being unwilling to lead the discussion and said Congress is in this situation because Democrats failed to pass a budget resolution last year.
"What I'd like to do is be able to work with Democrats to reform current entitlement programs for future generations," he said. "If you're ever going to put America on a fiscally sustainable path, where we don't destroy the American dream for our children ... these have got to be addressed."
Hensarling declined to answer whether Republicans would settle for fewer cuts this year, saying he didn't want to negotiate on national television.