Budget showdown could lead to shutdown

Wednesday - 2/16/2011, 10:31am EST

Bob Cusack, Managing Editor, The Hill

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By Vyomika Jairam
Federal News Radio

The lines are being drawn in the sand. For the fiscal year 2011 budget, that is.

With all the talk about the newly proposed FY 2012 budget, it's easy to forget that the last one is still pending.

"It's a real showdown, no doubt about it," Bob Cusack, Managing Editor of The Hill, said. "What Republicans are offering to do would be cutting actual spending in the range of $58-$61 billion, depending on how you actually count it. It's a major change."

The debate over the House GOP's proposal is expected to take up most of this week and the Senate won't begin its deliberation on the matter until closer to the March 4 deadline.

The White House, however, isn't waiting to express its displeasure with the current House proposal.

President Barack Obama threatened to veto the measure if the bill includes earmarks or doesn't help the deficit.

Speaker of the House John Boehner didn't mince words in defending the budget proposal, either. The cuts are necessary, he said because "in the last two years, under President Obama, the federal government has added 200,000 new federal jobs."

If some of those jobs are lost, Speaker Boehner said, "so be it. We're broke."

So where does this leave the possibility of a government shutdown?

"A couple of weeks ago I thought all the talk about a government shutdown was a lot of political posturing," Cusack said. "But over the last couple of weeks, I have thought that, based upon events, the chances have definitely increased."

Cusack still isn't saying it's likely, he estimates there is a 20 percent chance. With a continuing resolution, the question is if you can just "tweak," as Cusack says, the previous CR or if major changes can be introduced. Either way, any proposals made in the House will meet resistance in the Democrat-controlled Senate first.

It is possible that a temporary one-week extension on the CR might be introduced in order to give the White House and Congress more time to work out a deal, but Cusack says Republicans do not see a government shutdown as part of the solution.

"They say absolutely not; their intention is not to shut the government down, they want to reduce government spending, and they've said that repeatedly," Cusack said. "The thing is, both parties are going in opposite directions. Republicans are seeking more cuts, and Democrats are saying, 'We'd like to just see current funding levels, or maybe a small cut.' So it's not like they're getting closer."