- The Washington Times - Friday, March 11, 2011

Looking to avert a March 18 government shutdown, Congressional leaders have written another short-term spending bill that moves that deadline back three weeks while cutting additional billions of dollars from last year’s spending.

House Republicans introduced the bill Friday afternoon and it received the immediate blessing of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, though all sides said it only gives a little more breathing space to write a longer-term spending bill that will fund the government through the rest of fiscal year 2011, which ends Sept. 30.

The bill cuts $2 billion in regular spending from 2010 levels, cancels another $2.5 billion in earmarks and rescinds $1.4 billion in unspent money from previous years’ accounts. Republicans claim a total savings of $6 billion, though subtracting the one-time rescission savings the number is closer to $4.5 billion.

Republicans didn’t include any of the policy “riders,” such as defunding Planned Parenthood or the new health care law, that passed as part of the House bill, and mostly included cuts that President Obama and Senate Democrats themselves have already said are acceptable. Mr. Obama in his Friday press conference restated his intention to fight the riders if they were included in the spending bills.

“I’ve said directly to Speaker Boehner, that we’re happy to discuss any of these riders, but my general view is let’s not try to sneak political agendas into a budget debate,” Mr. Obama told reporters.

But both sides continued the brinksmanship that has characterized the spending debate so far.

“The short-term funding measure introduced in the House today will give the American people another round of spending cuts as they wait for the Democrats who run Washington — in the Senate and White House — to determine a position other than the status quo,” said House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, who called on the Senate to come up with a bill.

Mr. Reid, though, said the GOP must budge.

“With the clock ticking, it’s time for Republicans to do what they have been avoiding: come to the table with a serious proposal and a willingness to work with us on a long-term budget free of extraneous legislation,” he said.

The House passed a bill last month that cuts an additional $57 billion from 2010 spending.

The Senate this week voted down both that bill and a counterproposal from Democrats that would have cut $4.7 billion. That means senators have yet to pass an actual bill to match up against the House version.

Senate Democrats said they want to negotiate an agreement with all sides and then put that bill on the floor.

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