Updated: 12:20 p.m.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Sunday that they would support House Republicans’ three-week continuing resolution to stave off a government shutdown, while McConnell said this year’s marquee fiscal debate would be the debt limit.
“I don’t think we ought to let the government shut down,” McConnell said on “Fox News Sunday,” noting that the short-term measure includes $6 billion in spending cuts.
“We’re on a path, a slow path but a path nevertheless, to get to the $61 billion in reductions of this year’s spending that House Republicans were able to send over to us,” he added, referring to a House-passed bill that would fund the government until the fiscal year ends in September. The Senate voted last week to reject that bill, which would cut $61 billion in government spending.
McConnell predicted that most Republicans would vote in favor of the bill, even though it does not include riders that would cancel funding for controversial programs. “I think [the short-term bill] should pass and will pass,” he said.
Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, Durbin said Democrats would support the short-term CR, which he hoped House Republicans would take “as a signal of good faith” in ongoing budget negotiations.
“We’re in a position now where we need to sit down and reasonably come to a conclusion so that we can get about the business of governing this country,” the Illinois Democrat said.
He added that President Barack Obama has been working behind the scenes on the budget negotiations. Republicans have accused the president of being uninvolved.
Sen. Charles Schumer said the onus is on House Republicans to put together a long-term budget that can pass muster in both chambers. The New York Democrat said Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) will have a challenge persuading the 87 GOP freshmen, who have largely stuck to a platform of deficit reduction, to meet in the middle with Senate Democrats in order to pass a longer-term spending package.
“Now that every Democrat has rejected HR 1, and it clearly doesn’t have the votes to pass the Senate, the ball shifts to Speaker Boehner,” Schumer said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “We’ve put some cuts on the table. We’re willing to put more.”
Schumer acknowledged that Democrats “have to go somewhat further than where we’ve gone. And we are willing to be reasonable and meet in the middle, as long as it doesn’t cut the kinds of things that help America grow.”
“The American people gave us two missions: cut unnecessary programs, but grow the economy and create jobs,” he added. “We think we can do both. We think HR 1 only focuses on one.”
Still, like McConnell and Durbin, Schumer indicated support for the upcoming short-term CR and applauded it for being free of “extraneous riders.”
McConnell indicated that a greater standoff is on the horizon. The nation could hit its $14.3 trillion debt limit in April, and McConnell reiterated Sunday that his colleagues won’t support an increase unless significant spending cuts are made and spending control measures are put in place.
“We’ve got lots of bigger financial issues” to address than just the three-week CR, McConnell said, and the debt ceiling issue “is the perfect opportunity” for addressing the country’s current debt. “What I’ve said is that I don’t intend to support raising the debt ceiling, and I don’t believe any Senate Republicans do, unless we do something important related to spending and debt.”
He added, “We all have a sense of how you could get at the problem. The administration understands that we understand it, and we need to come together and figure out what we can do.”
McConnell added that Senate Republicans would do their part by continuing to offer amendments that seek to reduce government spending: Nine GOP Senators threatened last week to block any legislation that does not include significant spending cuts.
“If it’s a bill that has some merit, there is no particular reason to keep it from going forward,” McConnell said. “But we’d try to add on to it measures that we think address the problems of spending and debt.”