- The Washington Times - Friday, March 4, 2011

Senate Democrats introduced a bill Friday calling for an additional $6 billion in spending cuts this year, putting meat to the bones of President Obama’s opening offer this week to come to the table and negotiate with House Republicans.

The $6 billion is far short of the additional $57 billion in cuts the House passed two weeks ago, but it does finally give the Senate a proposal to match up against the House. Democrats last year failed to pass the 2011 spending bills, and the government has operated for the last five months on stopgap funding that runs out on March 18.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, said he’ll try to schedule votes next week to move the process along.

“Our plan recognizes that we’re not in a competition to determine who can cut the most, without regard for the consequences. Rather, we need to cooperate to figure out where we can cut the smartest,” Mr. Reid said as he brought the legislation to the Senate floor.

He tried to lock in votes for Tuesday but Republicans objected, saying they had just gotten the plan and needed time to examine it.

Mr. Reid said he will offer lawmakers a chance to vote on both the House’s $57 billion in cuts and on Senate Democrats’ $6 billion in cuts, though he said he knows neither propose will garner the 60 votes controversial legislation needs to pass the upper chamber.

Among the cuts in the Senate bill are $1 billion from the General Services Administration and a rescission of $600 million from the Forest Service’s wildland firefighting money. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel K. Inouye, Hawaii Democrat, said the fire-fighting funds could be cut because the last two fire seasons weren’t very severe.

Democrats said with this bill, government spending would be $51 billion below Mr. Obama’s proposed 2011 spending level. Republicans’ cuts would be $102 billion below the president’s proposal.

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