Republicans Aren’t Seeking Shutdown, Budget Chairman Ryan Says

Republicans Aren’t Seeking Shutdown, Budget Chairman Ryan
Representative Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee. Photographer: Jay Mallin/Bloomberg

Representative Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, said Republicans aren’t seeking to force a government shutdown and would negotiate a stop-gap spending plan that includes “interim” cuts.

“We’ll have some negotiations, with short-term extensions with spending cuts in the interim, is my guess,” the Wisconsin Republican said yesterday on CBS’s “Face the Nation” program. “We’re not looking for a government shutdown.”

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted 235-189 on Feb. 19 to slash at least $61 billion from current spending, setting the stage for a fight with Democrats that threatens to bring government to a standstill after March 4 when the current continuing resolution expires. Senate Democrats have balked at the cuts while Republicans are saying they will agree to a temporary spending authority only if it includes reductions in funding.

“I won’t support a CR (continuing resolution) unless it has some spending cuts,” Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina and a member of the Budget Committee, told NBC’s “Meet the Press,” echoing House Speaker John Boehner’s remarks of last week.

“I am not going to move any kind of short-term CR at current levels,” Boehner, an Ohio Republican, told reporters in Washington on Feb. 17.

‘Decent Chance’ of Shutdown

Peter Morici, a professor of business at the University of Maryland in College Park, said there is a “decent chance” of a partial government shutdown, as occurred in late 1995 and early 1996 during Bill Clinton’s presidency.

Following the previous shutdown, which pitted Clinton against Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the Republicans lost support. “After the shutdown, Gingrich was unable to hold his caucus together,” said Morici. President Barack Obama “is gambling that centrist Republicans will spin off.”

Senator Charles Schumer, a Democrat from New York, accused Boehner of using talk of a government shutdown as leverage in the budget battle.

“Many Republicans have said a shutdown is a good thing,” Schumer said yesterday on CNN’s “State of the Union” program. “One thinks they want to use the shutdown to get their way.”

The $1.2 trillion spending bill approved by the House yesterday would ban funds for President Obama’s health-care overhaul and for Planned Parenthood, which provides abortions. It also would scrap “net neutrality” Internet rules and block regulations on greenhouse gases and for-profit colleges. The White House has threatened a presidential veto.

Cuts Sought

The legislation seeks to fund the government for the remaining seven months of the current fiscal year, which expires Sept. 30. Current spending authority ends March 4, and without a continuing resolution the government will shut down.

Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat from Missouri, said she is willing to approve some reductions in current spending in order to get an agreement.

Senators Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat and assistant majority leader, and Republicans Graham and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma agreed on the need to work together to avoid a shutdown.

“I hope we’ll find a way to resolve this by reducing spending in a bipartisan fashion,” Graham said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“I don’t think we are” faced with a government shutdown, said Coburn, who served with Durbin on a presidential deficit panel, on the “Fox News Sunday” program. “I think nobody wants that to happen, and I think everybody realizes that we have to make some significant cuts.”

Conrad’s Warning

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad said his Democratic-controlled chamber will reduce this year’s budget by about half what House Republicans are demanding. The North Dakota Democrat has warned that the federal government may grind to a halt if Boehner won’t negotiate.

The Republican plan “will not be successful in the Senate, even though I think virtually everybody understands we’ve got to cut spending,” Conrad said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt.”

Ryan said on “Face the Nation” that Republicans will propose “serious solutions” to reducing the deficit. “We can’t keep borrowing, can’t keep spending and making empty promises to people.”

Economic Recovery

Appearing on the same program, Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the budget panel, said the economy needs to be “fully in gear” before the government can make the dramatic cuts proposed by Republicans.

Obama sent Congress a $3.7 trillion budget last week for fiscal year that starts Oct. 1. The document projects the federal deficit will exceed $1 trillion for the fourth straight year in 2012 before falling to lower levels by the middle of the decade. The deficit for the current year is forecast to hit a record $1.6 trillion, or 10.9 percent of gross domestic product, up from the $1.4 trillion the administration previously estimated.

The Republican plan for the current fiscal year, subject to more than 90 hours of debate prior to yesterday’s vote, would kill more than 100 programs and cut funding for hundreds more.

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