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House Republicans Fight Compromise After Budget Defeat

House Speaker John Boehner
House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, speaks at a news conference in Washington, D.C. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

House Republican freshmen are urging their leaders to resist compromising on spending cuts after the Senate defeated the party’s plan to cut $61 billion from the federal budget this year.

Representative Bill Flores, a first-term Republican from Texas, said he’s not interested in splitting the difference with Democrats, “and I don’t think you’re going to find many of my freshman colleagues that are either.” He said today the House plan was only a small step toward reining in the deficit and “we cannot push it off any more.”

House Republicans plan tomorrow to propose a three-week stopgap measure aimed at buying lawmakers more time to work out a deal. Representative Steve LaTourette, an Ohio Republican on the Appropriations Committee, said it will include about $6 billion in cuts designed to be non-controversial.

“There is still a lot of low-hanging fruit out there so you can probably get through this three weeks without making any tremendously difficult spending decisions,” LaTourette said. He said lawmakers could still rescind unspent money for their pet projects known as earmarks.

Current spending authority ends March 18, and without agreement by then non-essential government services would shut down.

‘Roll Up Our Sleeves’

Each side called on the other to make the next move on proposing a plan to fund the government through September. New York Senator Chuck Schumer, the third-ranking Democrat, said it’s up to House Speaker John Boehner to present an offer with fewer cuts after the Senate yesterday rejected the House plan and a rival spending proposal offered by Democrats.

“We’re ready to roll up our sleeves and negotiate, but we need them to put something that moves the negotiations forward on the table,” Schumer said.

Boehner, an Ohio Republican, responded that it’s time for Senate Democrats to “get serious” about negotiating. “Where is the Senate Democrat plan?” he said. “I’m not going to sit up here and negotiate with myself.”

Senate Democratic leaders said they want to broaden the budget talks by considering spending reductions in future fiscal years, as well as tax increases. Schumer has suggested cutting Medicare and agriculture programs, as well as eliminating tax benefits for oil and gas drilling.

Muddling the Issue

Bringing up tax increases and other matters would “muddle the current issue,” Boehner said today. “That’s what the next budget process is for, and we’ll have plenty of opportunities to talk about that.”

Second-ranking House Democrat Steny Hoyer said he’s skeptical that both parties could end the fight over the current fiscal year’s funding with a deal extending cuts over multiple years.

“What I don’t know is necessarily achievable is an agreement on what the cuts in the out years are, how deep they are and how long-term they are,” Hoyer of Maryland said in an interview.

The Republican spending bill, which would kill more than 100 programs and reduce funding for hundreds more, failed in the Senate late yesterday, 44-56. The Senate also defeated, 42-58, a Democratic alternative that called for roughly one-tenth the amount of cuts as in the Republican measure.

Representative Jack Kingston, a Georgia Republican, said today he’s willing to compromise with Democrats though he said he didn’t know how many of his freshman colleagues would agree.

‘Fight Another Day’

“You don’t always get what you want -- if you get a little bit of it and you live to fight another day, that’s what you’re going to do,” he said. He said the freshmen are “a force and I’m not sure what their level of tolerance is, but you don’t want the perfect to be the enemy of the good.”

Said Idaho Republican Mike Simpson: “I don’t know how much flexibility our conference is going to give us” because “Republicans are pretty stuck on those numbers.”

Freshman members -- who make up more than one-third of the 241 House Republicans -- are eager to deliver on campaign promises to slash spending. The party should stand behind its plan even if a stalemate results in a government shutdown, Republican Representative Allen West of Florida said yesterday.

“Anything less than that is a heinous violation of the trust of the American people,” said West, who won his first term in November with Tea Party support. “It is a question of can we truly prove ourselves to be fiscally responsible or are we just up here playing a game.”

Blocking Legislation

Also today, 10 Republican senators threatened to block consideration of any legislation that doesn’t address the deficit.

“Taxpayers expect Congress to work together to reduce wasteful and unnecessary spending,” the senators including Jeff Sessions of Alabama and Jim DeMint of South Carolina said in a letter to Reid. They said they would relent if he agreed to schedule “significant” floor debate on the issue before a needed increase in the federal debt limit.

Reid spokesman Jon Summers said in a statement, “After ignoring jobs for months, Republicans are making it official by vowing to block every bill that creates American jobs.”

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