House GOP offers new stopgap spending measure

Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 14, 2011; 9:35 AM

House Republicans proposed Friday another stopgap measure to keep the federal government open for business, this one a three-week offer accompanied by roughly $6 billion in spending cuts for the remainder of this fiscal year.

A vote is expected Tuesday on the measure, which would keep most federal offices running at last year's funding level until April 8. That would also allow GOP leaders, Senate Democrats and the White House more time to haggle over an elusive long-term resolution to the 2011 federal budget.

If passed, the temporary funding measure would be the federal government's fifth for a fiscal year that began Oct. 1, 2010.

Senate Democrats endorsed the plan because the lion's share of proposed cuts come from programs that President Obama had already slated for reductions in fiscal 2012.

And Obama indicated Friday at a news conference that he was willing to sign another stopgap bill. He warned, however, "We can't keep on running the government based on two-week extensions. That's irresponsible. . . . We should be able to get it done."

The spending debate has lingered on because the last Congress could not reach accord on a budget for fiscal 2011.

"The American people do not have an endless reserve of patience. It's time to clean up last year's budget mess in a manner that reflects Americans' desire for a government that spends less and spends it wisely, so we can move on to address the current year's budget," House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement.

Democrats did not criticize the latest short-term offer from Boehner, but House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) criticized Republicans for their original plan to slash $61 billion from federal agencies for the rest of this year, calling it unworkable.

"With the clock ticking, it's time for Republicans to do what they have been avoiding: come to the table with a serious proposal and a willingness to work with us on a long-term budget free of extraneous legislation," Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said in a statement.

The Senate, so far, is in legislative limbo for a long-term spending plan. The austere House proposal received just 44 votes in a Senate vote this week. That poor showing was marginally better than a Democratic offer that cut less than $5 billion, and received just 42 votes.

The $6 billion in new cuts include hundreds of millions of dollars in old accounts from the Interior and Agriculture departments. In addition, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which oversees funding for embattled National Public Radio, would lose $50 million from a "stabilization fund."

Obama decried that last move, saying, "Don't try to use the budget as a way to promote a political or ideological agenda."

Also, in an odd sense of timing, an international fund for Ireland would lose $17 million, a proposal backed by the State Department. The Senate could vote to eliminate those funds, and others, on Thursday - St. Patrick's Day, when the Irish government's leaders will be feted at the annual congressional luncheon.

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