Thursday, March 10, 2011

No Budget Deal In Sight With One Week To Go

Mar 10: As expected the Senate rejected both a Republican and Democratic proposal for a Continuing Resolution (CR) to continue funding the government through the end of the FY 2011 (ending September 30) [See WIMS 3/7/11]. The Republican proposal called for some $61 billion in cuts and the Democrats proposed some $5 billion in cuts. The short-term CR, passed on March 2, avoided a government shutdown and extended funding until March 18 [See WIMS 3/2/11]. The major differences that existed between Republicans and Democrats continue and yesterday's votes were largely political gamesmanship. As evidenced by the statements from party leaders below, Democrats and Republicans remain far apart on numbers and policy with just one week left on the short-term CR.
    Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) made the following remarks regarding yesterday's budget votes in the Senate and said, "It's time, once again, for us to get down to business. Yesterday's budget votes didn't bring us any closer to a conclusion, but it did make one thing very clear. That lesson is this: One party alone will not reach a resolution without the other's cooperation and consent. We voted on the Republican budget proposal, and on the Democratic budget proposal. Neither plan came anywhere close to the 60 votes needed to pass, or even the 51 votes that would have represented a majority of the Senate. But the exercise was not in vain. We've demonstrated -- publicly and on the record -- that we know the answer lies somewhere in the middle. Now it's time to find that answer in a budget that will reflect our values, keep the country running and create jobs.

    "I can speak only for my caucus when I say we accept the lesson of yesterday's votes. We know we will have to make sacrifices to reach consensus. We're willing to do that. Republicans have to be willing to move their position, too. Perhaps they're willing to finally acknowledge that given our deep debt, we can't afford government giveaways to millionaires and oil companies making record profits. Both acknowledgements would help close the deficit gap. Both would be big pieces to the puzzle. Perhaps Republicans are willing to offer more reasonable cuts that the Democratic caucus can support. By reasonable cuts, I mean cuts that don't arbitrarily kick Head Start students out of class or rob college students of their Pell Grants -- both cuts the Senate resoundingly rejected yesterday.

    "I mean cuts that don't pull the plug on renewable-energy jobs, or cuts that fire thousands of workers at community health centers across the country. Perhaps Republicans are willing to look in our country's substantial budget and find cuts more worthy than those that would weaken the law enforcement and border security that keep us safe. I hope they will. I hope they will join Democrats in saving money by tackling waste, fraud and abuse. I hope they will join us making tough choices and avoiding the temptation to make counterproductive cuts. Let's come together to cut in a way that strengthens our economy, not weakens it.  Let's cut in a way that makes our neighborhoods, our schools and our borders stronger, not weaker.

    "As the negotiation process begins anew, I remind my Republican friends that time is short. I also remind them that the deadline we face -- March 18, one week from tomorrow -- is a deadline that they set. Democrats warned from the start that this process would take a month. Republicans would agree only to a period half as long -- two weeks. Those two weeks are up next Friday. So my message to my Republican colleagues is this: You set the deadline, and the responsibility of meeting it is as much yours as it is ours. Both parties also share a responsibility to be reasonable. Let's get to work. We cannot negotiate this in the media. We cannot negotiate this if we are unwilling to give any ground. We cannot be stubborn and expect a solution. It's time to negotiate in good faith.  The time for political posturing is over, and the time for pragmatism is overdue."
    Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made the following comments prior to the Senate votes yesterday. Senator McConnell said, "At a time when Washington is borrowing about $4 billion a day, Democrat leaders want to cut about four and a half billion in government spending for the rest of the fiscal year, and then call it a day. In other words, they want to take what amounts to a day and a half long holiday from their out-of-control spending and then return to the status quo for the rest of the year. And let me just add that paying lip service to the threat caused by the deficit is not a substitute for responsible leadership and that job-destroying tax hikes on small businesses and American families are not the answer to out-of-control Washington spending.

    "At a time when increasing gas prices are already threatening our economic recovery, a minivan tax that some on the other side have proposed won't solve our nation's fiscal crisis. But I'll tell you what it will do: it will destroy jobs and impose a real on burden families every time they fill up at the pump -- at a time when people are looking for relief instead. Democrats' steadfast refusal to cut another dime from the bloated Washington budget has left them no choice, it seems, but to propose raising taxes on American families and small businesses so that they can continue spending at unsustainable levels. Republicans, on the other hand, have made a serious proposal to rein in wasteful spending.

    "So to me, at least, the choice before us is pretty clear. But as we approach today's vote, it's worth noting that even if we were to pass the biggest spending cuts that have been proposed so far in this debate, it wouldn't even put a dent in the fiscal problems we face as a result of the growth in entitlement spending. Think about it: Democrats have been waging war this week over a proposal to cut $4.7 billion. Meanwhile, the amount of money we've promised to spend on programs like Social Security and Medicare -- money we don't have -- is about $52 trillion. So this week's debate is just a dress rehearsal for the big stuff -- and so far Democrats are showing they're just not up to it. They either lack the stomach or the courage, and the President, as members of his own party point out, is nowhere to be found on the issue.

    "I've talked about this leadership vacuum repeatedly this week on the entitlements -- and how their unchecked growth threatens to bury all of us in red ink before we know it. We can argue about whether to cut $5 billion or $60 billion in day-to-day expenses all we want -- but the fact is, even if we hit the bigger number we're still staring at a catastrophe. And the President appears to be totally uninterested in leading us to a bipartisan solution -- the way Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton did the last times we faced a crisis of this magnitude. But when it comes to another crisis -- the jobs crisis -- the President isn't just failing to lead, he's flat-out barring the door with a mountain of stifling new regulations and calculated inaction on outstanding free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama. . .

    "In the last few weeks, company after company has come before Congress to testify how important accessing Latin American markets is for their future, and to create jobs here. According to the Chamber of Commerce, failing to pass these trade agreements along with the trade agreement with South Korea could cost us 380,000 U.S. jobs. . . The administration has no excuse for failing to act on these trade agreements. It's in the clear interest of the country to approve them. It would create jobs here at home at a time when we desperately need them. I am confident Congress could pass these on a bipartisan basis today. I urge the administration to act today, and not just on South Korea but on Colombia and Panama. I for one am prepared to do everything in my power to pass these agreements together this year."

    Access the statement from Senator Reid (click here). Access the statement from Sen. McConnell (click here).

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