Government shutdown threat looms over budget fight

WASHINGTON Mon Feb 21, 2011 7:33am EST

A copy of President Obama's 2012 budget is unveiled on Capitol Hill, February 14, 2011. REUTERS/Jason Reed

A copy of President Obama's 2012 budget is unveiled on Capitol Hill, February 14, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Jason Reed

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senior Senate Democrats slammed Republicans on Sunday for a "reckless" threat to shut down the government amid deepening political posturing on both sides over federal spending and the budget deficit.

The House of Representatives voted on Saturday to cut federal spending by $61 billion through September. But the Republican measure will likely die because Democrats who control the Senate oppose it and President Barack Obama vowed to veto it.

Obama has outlined his own plan for less-severe spending cuts in 2012, and has warned that tightening the belt too much too soon could harm the slow economic recovery.

Democratic Senator Charles Schumer criticized House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell over talk among some Republicans that they would rather shut down the government than relent on their spending cut demands.

"Unfortunately Speaker Boehner seems to be on a course that would inevitably lead to a shutdown ... That's reckless," Schumer said on CNN's "State of the Union" program.

"We have said shutdown is off the table ... Boehner, Mitch McConnell, other Republican leaders have not taken it off the table when asked, and there are lots of people on the hard right clamoring for a shutdown."

With the government funded only through March 4, the government could run out of money if lawmakers fail to act, but both sides have been urging compromise. That was seen as the likeliest outcome, even by one of the House's new breed of small-government, deficit-slashing freshman Republicans.

"When it goes to the Senate, they're going to make their changes and then it's got to go to the president. So you know, it will not be in the form that we produced yesterday morning at 5 a.m.," Representative Steve Southerland, a first-term Republican from Florida, said on ABC's "This Week" news program.

Democrats also want to shrink the deficit, projected to hit $1.65 trillion or 10.9 percent of the economy this year. Senate Democrats are likely to endorse a spending bill that cuts funds, but not as deeply as the House did.


The House bill is more than an effort to cut the deficit. Republicans are also trying to use the budget process to starve government programs such as healthcare and regulation of Wall Street and the environment that they have long opposed.

Republican Representative Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, downplayed the shutdown scenario on CBS' "Face the Nation" program.

"We're not looking for a government shutdown, but at the same time we're also not looking at rubber stamping these really high, elevated spending levels that Congress blew through the joint two years ago," Ryan said.

The United States faces global criticism for running huge deficits financed by borrowing from abroad. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told officials of the Group of 20 major nations on Saturday that the White House's budget for 2012 will meet its G20 commitment to halve fiscal deficits by 2013.

The deficit hole has been deepened by the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy that Republicans insisted on extended in an economic stimulus deal with Obama last year.

But the House-passed budget left untouched major items such as the Medicare and Medicaid healthcare programs for the elderly and the poor, seen as key drivers of the deficit, along with the economic downturn and the costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We need to close some of the tax loopholes for special interests like the oil companies, $40 billion worth of loopholes. I hope our Republican friends will join us in closing some of those," Democratic Representative Chris Van Hollen said on CBS's "Face the Nation."

(Editing by Philip Barbara)

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Comments (15)
The system has become like the submarine that has sunk and is running out of air. It thinks that by re-structuring its debt it can somehow buy a few extra seconds of life. The logic that somehow new debt is better than old debt is just a shiny new ruse; Congress has neither been paying for its proposals nor for its existing programs for over a century. Anyone who depends on the government in this day and age has holes in their head. Congressmen represent nothing anymore other than their own perpetuity in office.

What is the logical scenario? The air will run out. Those stupid enough to depend on the government will be hurt. The air is running out and those too stupid to realize this fact will be asphixiated.

It’s time for the government to bring this submarine to the surface, open the hatches, and let its dedicated and loyal crew members have some air. Or perhaps by scuttling the sub, the government figures its secret guilt will never be revealed? Operating under cloak and veil of secrecy, the military/industrial/financial globalists, (MIFG), fronted here in America by the Department of Homeland Security is neither our advocate nor our protector. By suspecting each of us, patriots, national heroes, and loyal US Citizens alike of being potential terrorists, we are treated as aliens in our own homeland. DHS is casting a shadow of fascism over all of us; MIFG having bought off all our lawmakers, seeks to promote its agenda of totalitarianism as each day passes. Today, national security is a fiction, because our freedoms today are non-existent. ‘False-flag’ terrorist events are routinely being staged by our trusted military; and shadows of facism are looming ever darker! Citizenship is no longer of any use here in America because non-citizens enjoy more rights than do citizens. The membership here in America is of no interest to our lawmakers, and securing American borders not a priority to the MIFG. This “homeland” has become a strange and foreign place, with threats of doom and destruction forever emanating from our federal establishment. Citizens (and taxpayers) had better each provide for his own security, rather than depend on this impotent lot. If given the chance, the government will botch it; as sure as the sun will rise in the east; the government will botch the job, and you will end up the victim!

We citizens; we taxpayers; we patriots had better start to think for ourselves; we had better start to take some personal responsibility for ourselves and for our futures and our family’s future! Government is anaerobic! Go outside, sniff that fresh air, and count your blessings while you still can!

Feb 21, 2011 4:07am EST  --  Report as abuse
PKFA wrote:
Government shutdown? Hmmmm, not such a bad idea.
If I hear “tax cuts for the wealthy” one more time I’ll scream. Of course there are tax cuts for the wealthy- they pay most of the taxes! The “poor” don’t pay any. Duh.
Seriously, the way out of this mess is the Fair Tax. Straight percentage- no loopholes- EVERYONE has “skin in the game”. Reduce government spending (no IRS), put CPAs ans tax attorneys to work maybe actually learning to produce wealth rather than shuffle it around. Balance the budget. What a concept!

Feb 21, 2011 6:33am EST  --  Report as abuse
JamesChirico wrote:
Too bad our military can’t lock congress in on the house floor without media coverage to compromise and hammer out a budget.

Feb 21, 2011 9:45am EST  --  Report as abuse
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