Budget battle lines are drawn

Wednesday - 3/9/2011, 10:31am EST

Alexander Bolton, Staff Writer, The Hill

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By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

The Senate is expected to vote on two different budget measures that would fund your agency for the remainder of 2011. The votes on the separate proposals from the Democrats and Republicans will happen today.

The measures are expected to fail, but the goal is to prod both sides toward keeping the government running after the current CR expires next week.

As Alexander Bolton, Staff Writer at the Hill newspaper, explained to Federal News Radio, "what folks in the Senate have said is once these votes happen today, then the real negotiation starts."

The results of today's votes, said Bolton, will influence negotiations. If more Democrats defect, then Republicans can make the argument that the White House and Democratic leadership need to bend, and vice versa.

"At this point," said Bolton, "it looks more likely that we'll see Democrats defecting from the Democratic alternative because several are on the record saying it doesn't go far enough," but, he added, "it's hard to say."

The real intrigue is to see who votes for which bills.

"Watch to see what the five Republican centrists do. Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins of Maine; Scott Brown from Massachusetts, Mark Kirk from Illinois and Lisa Murkowski from Alaska. If they defect from the House Republican spending cuts, we will see Democrats with greater leverage in negotiations. On the Democratic side, pay attention to Claire McCaskill from Missouri and Joe Manchin from West Virginia, Ben Nelson from Nebraska - they all face tough races in 2012 and will be a good indication of what Democrats are arguing going into negotiations."

As the politics plays out, many federal employees and managers are watching to see how hard they'll be hit both in the wallet and in the workplace. For those frustrated by living and working under continuing resolutions, it doesn't look good to Bolton. He pointed out the two sides are pretty far apart and there's not a lot of time to put together a long term spending plan.

"In the House, they're moving another short term CR in anticipation of the sides not being able to reach agreement by the end of next week. However Democrats are against doing another short term CR. They're worried about what they say is a 'death by a thousand cuts.' They do not want to be budgeting...setting the budget every two weeks and cutting another billion or two billion dollars from the bottom line. That, however, would suit Republicans just fine. They'd be glad with nicking the budget a billion here, two billion there for the rest of the year."

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