House and Senate appropriators have agreed to a total for spending reductions in a continuing resolution covering the remainder of the fiscal year, Vice President Joseph Biden told reporters in the Capitol on Wednesday night.
The lawmakers settled on reducing fiscal 2011 spending to $73 billion below President Barack Obama’s budget request, Biden said, according to a White House transcript. The figure represents a concession by House Republicans, who captured the majority in the 2010 midterm elections with a campaign pledge to cut spending to $100 billion below the president’s request.
Biden and Jacob Lew, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, were on Capitol Hill on Wednesday evening to hold a closed-door meeting with Senate Democratic leaders to discuss the budget. Biden emphasized in his news conference afterward that the “composition” of the $73 billion in cuts had yet to be worked out and that there’s “going to be a thorough negotiation” when talks resume Thursday morning.
“Democrats are in full agreement on what we don’t want to do in that number,” and “everything from discretionary spending to defense, mandatory to non-mandatory” is on the table, Biden said.
Policy provisions sought by House Republicans will also be up for discussion.
“Part of the negotiation in there doesn’t relate to dollar amounts,” the vice president said. “It relates to what they will swallow and we could swallow relative to riders. There are certain things we’re just not going to do on riders, even if you agree with everything else. We’re just not going to do it. They may have positions that are equally as strongly as held.”
Even so, Biden was optimistic that an agreement could be reached before the current continuing resolution expires April 8.
“There is no reason why, with all that’s going on in the world and with the state of the economy, we can’t reach an agreement to avoid a government shutdown, because the bottom line here is we’re working off the same number. ... It’s about how,” he said.
Lois Lerner, director of exempt organizations for the IRS, arrives for a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the investigation of the IRS' targeting of political groups. Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right to not testify and caused a protest from some committee members when she offered an opening statement and engaged in dialogue with members before invoking the right.
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