Government Shutdown is in Democrats' Hands

President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) are spinning and dodging to avoid being blamed for a government shutdown in the battle over spending cuts with the House Republicans. 

The House GOP passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) on Saturday that funds the government for the remaining seven months of this fiscal year at $60 billion less than current levels.  The Democrat-controlled Senate needs to pass a CR and have it signed by Obama by March 4 in order to avoid a full government shutdown.

However, Reid will not allow the House CR to come to a vote in the Senate because he sees the House Republicans’ record-level government spending cuts as “draconian.”  The House and Senate Democrats want a 30-day CR to buy them time to negotiate a deal with fewer spending cuts.

Until March 4, the government is being funded by a short-term CR that keeps government spending at the Democrat-set levels from 2010.  The current CR was negotiated between Obama and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R.-Ky.) in December. 

At issue this week is Reid’s refusal to cut government spending for even the one-month CR while negotiating the longer-term CR.  Reid put out a statement on Tuesday that said that he will bring a CR to the Senate floor next week, which would keep spending at 2010 levels.

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R.-Ohio) has said that he will not accept any more government spending bills at current levels, which have increased 26% in the past two years of Democrat control.

“Speaker Boehner has been perfectly clear that the House will not pass a CR without spending cuts.  If the White House believes we can come to agreement, we hope they’ll share that with Sens. Reid and [Chuck] Schumer, who—thus far—say they aren’t willing to cut a nickel,” Boehner’s Press Secretary Michael Steel told HUMAN EVENTS.

“Washington Democrats can’t find a single dime of federal spending to cut,” said McConnell on Tuesday.  “But keeping bloated spending levels in place and, predictably, proposing even more tax increases, is simply unacceptable.”

Because the Senate is in recess this week, Reid only has four days next week to pass some kind to CR to avert shutting down the government.

In response to Reid’s announcement of putting a CR out that does not cut spending, Boehner released his own statement.

“The House has passed legislation to keep the government running until October while cutting spending.  If Senator Reid refuses to bring it to a vote, then the House will pass a short-term bill to keep the government running—one that also cuts spending,” Boehner stated.

The current year’s budget deficit is predicted to be $1.6 trillion, according to President Obama’s budget.  The United States is in more than $14 trillion of debt and is on course to hit the statutory debt ceiling in the coming months.  The Republicans say cutting government spending is non-negotiable.

McConnell’s spokesman Don Stewart told HUMAN EVENTS that the Senate Republicans welcome the Democrats’ “input on ways to reverse the status quo and actually reduce spending.”

Also, a government shutdown could occur if Obama refuses to sign a CR passed by Congress.

The White House issued a statement last week that said President Obama will veto the House-passed CR if it “undermines critical priorities or national security through funding levels or restrictions.”

Obama’s spokesman said on Tuesday that the veto threat still stands for the spending cuts passed by the House.

“The White House’s position, the President’s position, was clearly stated in that statement of administration policy.  That hasn’t changed,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney.

Despite the fact that the Democrats have the full responsibility now to keep the government funded, both Obama and Reid claim that they do not want a government shutdown.

“We do not want a shutdown of the government,” said the White House spokesman.

“We do not want a shutdown of the government and [hope] that we can come to an agreement that avoids that,” Reid said.

Meanwhile, the only people who have mentioned that shutting down the federal government is a possibility are mainstream media reporters and the Senate Democrats.

Neither Boehner nor any Republican leader has threatened a government shutdown.  On the contrary, the House passed the CR that would keep the government funded (at lower levels) for the rest of the fiscal year.  And, the leaders have emphatically stated that the threat of a government shutdown is unnecessary.

“Senate Democrat Leader Harry Reid has yet to offer a plan and instead almost seems as though he’s hoping for a government shutdown to occur for political gain,” said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R.-Va.) in a statement on Tuesday.  “Let me be clear, a government shutdown is not an acceptable outcome.”

“Republicans’ goal is to cut spending and reduce the size of government, not to shut it down,” said Boehner.

Despite this reality, Reid blamed Boehner for the shutdown rhetoric.  “I am asking Speaker Boehner to simply take the threat of a government shutdown off the table, and work with us to negotiate a responsible, long-term solution,” said Reid in his statement.

“Senator Reid and the Democrats who run Washington should stop creating more uncertainty by spreading fears of a government shutdown and start telling the American people what—if anything—they are willing to cut,” Boehner responded.

The budget ball is now in the court of the Democratic Senate and White House.  They have three options in the next week: pass and sign the House CR that cuts spending by $60 billion, pass a short-term CR that cuts spending, or shut down the federal government.