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Resistance to second stopgap spending deal rises in Congress

Some Republicans say the temporary fix to avert a government shutdown doesn't cut deep enough, while some Democrats say it goes too far.

March 15, 2011|By Lisa Mascaro, Washington Bureau
  • House Majority Leader Eric Cantor acknowledged a lot of frustration about the inability of this place to produce results.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor acknowledged a lot of frustration about… (Associated Press )

Reporting from Washington — More Republicans and Democrats are showing resistance to a second stopgap spending measure to avert a government shutdown, complicating the political climate before votes scheduled this week.

The tension surrounding the issue could derail efforts to keep the government operating past Friday, when the current funding measure expires and stops the flow of money to federal agencies.

Conservative Republicans reject the temporary approach as insufficient, and some Democrats oppose another extension because the cuts are too deep.

The House is set to vote Tuesday on the newest stopgap proposal, which would fund the government for three more weeks while cutting another $6 billion — on par with reductions first sought by the GOP in a House-passed spending bill that was rejected by Senate Democrats.

The extension would give Congress more time to negotiate a budget solution for the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.

Despite the concerns, leaders on both sides expect they will have the votes to pass the measure by Friday. Polls show Americans oppose a shutdown and would blame both parties for a disruption in government services.

Several prominent conservative Republicans, however, including Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, chairman of the House's conservative caucus, and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, have announced their opposition to the new measure. "Tea party" activists and other conservative groups are urging a "no" vote.

Rubio said the short-term approach was the equivalent of trying to "nickel-and-dime our way out of the dangerous debt America has amassed."

Republicans also are upset that the temporary measures do not advance their policy priorities — to defund the national healthcare law championed by President Obama, cut off Planned Parenthood and gut the Environmental Protection Agency. All of those objectives were included in the earlier House-passed bill, which was rejected last week by the Democratic-controlled Senate.

"It's just not the numbers in the budget; there were some very key policy positions," said freshman Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), who announced he would vote no.

Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the House majority leader, acknowledged "a lot of frustration about the inability of this place to produce results."

Some Republicans, however, have been backing the stopgap proposal because it enables them to achieve $2 billion a week in reductions — a level similar to their initial offer.

That bill sought more than $60 billion in cuts, among the largest reductions of its kind to domestic programs, including Head Start preschool, urban renewal programs and student loans.

Democrats are increasingly opposed to another extension because it would result in a level of cuts they have previously rejected.

They approved the first stopgap two weeks ago to keep the government running and give congressional leaders more time to negotiate a budget deal.

Asked to do so again, several Senate Democrats have chafed, worried that a second extension amounts to a gradual shutdown of the government because agencies are unable to plan, contract or fully function because of the uncertainties.

"For many of us, the notion of another [short-term measure] is just out of consideration," said Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.).

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) acknowledged the difficulty in resolving the stalemate. "So far, we remain far more divided on the willingness to compromise," he said.

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