* Republican bill heads for Democratic-controlled Senate
* Top Democrat calls GOP's shut-down tactic "reckless"
* Compromise urged on all sides, but time running short
By Kevin Drawbaugh
WASHINGTON, Feb 20 Senior U.S. Senate Democrats
slammed Republicans on Sunday for a "reckless" threat to shut
down the government as political posturing intensified on both
sides over federal spending and the budget deficit.
The House of Representatives approved legislation on
Saturday to cut federal spending by $61 billion through
September. But The bill, pushed through by Republicans, was
sure to be significantly changed by President Barack Obama and
his fellow Democrats in the Senate.
"Unfortunately Speaker Boehner seems to be on a course that
would inevitably lead to a shutdown ... That's reckless," said
Democratic Senator Charles Schumer on CNN'S State of the Union
program, speaking of House Speaker John Boehner, the top
Republican in Congress.
"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 U.S. government funded only through March 4, some
lawmakers from both parties are urging compromise, which was
seen as the likeliest outcome, even by one of the House's new
breed of small-government, deficit-slashing freshman
"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.
The House bill is a challenge to Obama to tackle record
budget deficits seen at hitting $1.6 trillion this year. If
there is no compromise, it sets up the possibility of a
government shutdown, something Boehner has not ruled out.
But Southerland said on ABC's This Week: "We have no desire
to have a government shutdown. I think that Speaker Boehner has
been very, very clear."
The bill approved early Saturday morning would slash
spending on many domestic programs by 14 percent but leave
untouched major programs such as the Medicare and Medicaid
healthcare programs for the elderly and poor and the Social
Security pension program.
The House vote was seen as a victory for Tea Party
conservatives elected in November.
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 Claire McCaskill said her party knows
that cuts must be made. "The question is, what are the
priorities here?" she said on Fox News Sunday.
"Are we going to take a weed whacker to education funding
in this country while we let millionaires continue to deduct
interest on their second home? That doesn't seem to be the
right priority ... I'm a little worried that the Republicans in
the House are so anxious to threaten shutting down the
(Editing by Philip Barbara)