WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans maneuvered on two fronts Monday in the federal spending showdown, demanding Democrats agree to more than $33 billion in swift cuts and avoid a government shutdown at the same time they readied a separate plan to slash deficits by a staggering $4 trillion over a decade. With little progress evident on the first track, President Barack Obama invited key lawmakers to the White House in search of a deal to avoid a partial shutdown at midnight Friday.
“Time is of the essence,” said White House press secretary Jay Carney, announcing plans for the Tuesday meeting. “We need to get this work done.”
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio said he would attend on behalf of Republicans. But he also emphasized in a statement that the $33 billion total often cited “is not enough, and many of the cuts that the White House and Senate Democrats are talking about are full of smoke and mirrors.”
Boehner has said repeatedly he does not want a shutdown. Yet a new public opinion poll underscored the political dilemma confronting the leader of a conservative majority swept into power with the support of tea party supporters.
In a survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, 68 percent of tea party adherents said lawmakers should stick to their principles in the budget negotiations, even if it means the government shuts down.
Yet in the population as a whole, only 36 percent supported that view, according to the survey, and only 38 percent of independents, who compose a key swing vote in any election.
Republican officials say GOP lawmakers are ready with another short-term spending bill if needed to avoid a government shutdown.
These officials say a bill to finance the government for one week will be brought to the House floor if now deadlocked talks on a longer-term measure fail to yield a compromise.
They add the stopgap bill would include about $12 billion in cuts in domestic programs, and include enough money to finance the Defense Department through the end of the budget year on Sept. 30.
In remarks on the Senate floor, Majority Leader Harry Reid emphasized a similar point. Tea party Republicans, the Nevada Democrat said, “stomp their feet and call ‘compromise’ a dirty word and insist on a budget that will hurt America rather than help it.”
He said a deeper-cutting, House-passed bill “slashes programs for the sake of slashing programs. It chops zeroes off the budget for nothing more than bragging rights.”
Joining Boehner in a Republican rebuttal was Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. He accused Reid of “dictating the use of gimmicks and phony accounting to sneak more spending through the Congress and by the American people.”
The House passed the legislation more than a month ago calling for $61 billion in cuts from current levels.
In addition, that measure includes dozens of proposals not directly related to spending, including curbs on the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal regulatory agencies and a denial of funding to Planned Parenthood.
Unlike the House, the Senate has yet to pass a spending bill to close out the current budget year, now more than half over, and Democrats are divided on how deeply to cut. In several weeks of maneuvering, Congress has agreed on a pair of stopgap bills that cut $10 billion, and Obama has signed them.