UPDATED with House vote
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters Tuesday that he will accept House Republicans’ two-week extension of government funding that comes with $4 billion in cuts. The House this afternoon passed the bill 335-91 with overwhelming bipartisan support. Reid says he will push that measure through the Senate “in the next 48 hours.” Without congressional action current government funding lapses on Friday.
Reid said he discussed “a number of options” with Republicans, including a 30-day $8 billion-in-cuts deal floated today by White House Press Secretary Jay Carney but “they rejected that.”
Democrats have been hammering Republicans that two weeks is a curt deadline to reach a deal on longer-term spending and that running a government on a biweekly basis is, as House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer put it today, “unproductive, inefficient, demoralizing and extremely disruptive.”
Reid said he expects that President Obama will step up to the debate. House Republicans have mocked Obama for his “absenteeism” in tackling the nation’s mounting debt.”I think [the Administration] should be more involved and they will be,” Reid said.
More than 100 Democrats voted with House Republicans to pass the stopgap measure, including 51 Blue Dogs and New Democrats — a voting block Houser Speaker John Boehner may need if his freshmen ultimate reject whatever the Senate finally passes in the long term.
The stopgap agreement does little to resolve the underlying conflict. Republicans want to slash $61 billion from the seven months remaining in the 2011 budget. While Democrats agree that cuts are needed, they argue such precipitous chopping would be dangerous not only to the fragile economic recovery but to specific programs such as port security, poison control and meat and drug inspections. The $4 billion in cuts in the short-term bill are mostly bipartisan proposals endorsed by Obama, such election assistance grants, the Smithsonian Legacy Fund and $1.24 billion in previously passed earmarks. But these cuts are low hanging fruit. Republicans and Democrats have some bitter fights coming over tens of billions of dollars worth of more controversial chops proposed by House Republicans. Which means, that though Republicans have won this battle, the war over the size and role of government is far from over.