By Stephen Dinan,Â The Washington Times
A top Senate Democrat said Sunday that the $6 billion in additional spending cuts that his party offered is the limit Democrats can accept â€” drawing a line well short of Republicansâ€™ goal with less than two weeks to go before a government shutdown if the two sides canâ€™t agree.
Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Democrat in the chamber, said the $6 billion proposal, released Friday, has â€œpushed this to the limitâ€ on domestic spending. That comment stands in sharp opposition to a House Republican bill containing an additional $57 billion in cuts below 2010 spending.
Meanwhile, the Senateâ€™s top Republican said his talks with President Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. show that the White House is not serious about tackling longer-term spending challenges, making it difficult for Congress to work with the president.
Taken together, the short- and long-term budget fights show how tough it will be for lawmakers to find common ground on the single biggest issue facing them over the next six months.
Republicans said they havenâ€™t seen any commitment from the White House to talk about entitlement spending, which is the big driver of long-term deficits.
â€œIâ€™ve had plenty of conversations with them. What I donâ€™t see now is any willingness to do anything thatâ€™s difficult,â€ Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said on CBSâ€˜ â€œFace the Nationâ€ program. â€œSo far, I donâ€™t see the level of seriousness that we need.â€
The immediate test for lawmakers is to try to head off a March 18 shutdown by passing a long-overdue 2011 spending measure.
Democrats said Republicans are proposing cuts that are too deep in the near term, and that the House GOPâ€™s $57 billion in additional cuts would strike at education and science spending. Mr. Durbin told CBS that he and fellow Democrats are willing to find additional cuts beyond the $6 billion they proposed Friday, but it must come from non-domestic programsÂ â€” leaving defense spending as the chief target.
â€œI think weâ€™ve pushed this to the limit. To go any further is to push more kids out of school, to stifle the innovation which small businesses and large alike need to create more jobs, and it stops the investment in infrastructure, which kills good-paying jobs right here in the United States,â€ Mr. Durbin said.
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