Democrats and Press upset about even tiny cuts in government spending
The Capitol Hill rhetoric reached new levels of ugliness Tuesday as negotiations over some semblance of a federal budget gave way to finger-pointing, with Democrats blaming Tea Party freshmen for a potential government shutdown and Republicans calling those claims a fantasy.
Over the past few days, Democrats have pounded the argument that Congress would have been able to work out a budget deal long ago if not for the extreme demands of Tea Party-aligned lawmakers.
Congress has until April 8, the expiration date for the current short-term budget, to craft either another stopgap or a more substantive budget that lasts through the end of fiscal 2011, or face a partial Washington shutdown.
Hopes were relatively high last week that such a coming-together could happen, but lawmakers on both sides made clear Tuesday they've made scant progress.
"Unfortunately, there are a number of new people in the Congress who think that a compromise is a sellout," House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Tuesday. He said there's still room for compromise, but accused the "perfectionist caucus" -- his latest term for the Tea Partiers -- of dragging down the Republican leadership. Hoyer said he put the odds of a shutdown at "five or six" on a scale of 10. . . .
Democrats view of cutting spending is to propose a lot of new programs and then say that they won't go through with all of them.
Democrats are working on a plan that would allow them to say they tried to meet Republicans halfway on spending cuts. This is similar to the earlier effort in which Democrats said they were meeting Republicans halfway because they were abandoning $47 billion in spending requests sought by President Obama.
The new effort on the Democratic side involves taking cuts already made and adjustments in other expenditures outside the realm of Republican cuts – annualized changes in farm subsidy rates, for example – to claim that they are proposing half of the $61 billion in total reductions sought by the GOP.
It looks like a mess, but the goal isn’t good bookkeeping. The goal is to divide the House Republican caucus and position themselves to profit politically. While there is no sign that Senate Democrats and the White House have a real accord on cuts, the message from Majority Leader Harry Reid and his team is already in place on the assumption that some kind of plan will eventually be produced. . . .
The Democratic caucus in the Senate smacked down Reid’s last gambit -- $6.5 billion in cuts for the rest of the year. “First, they didn’t believe one dime in spending could be cut. Then they relented and agreed to cut $10 billion after Republicans forced the issue. Then Democrats said they could offer $11 billion more, but most of it was gimmicks,” a senior House GOP staffer told Power Play. “And suddenly, days later, they say they can offer $20 billion, but they won’t share it with anyone. Republicans have passed a credible plan; it’s called H.R. 1. Where is the Democrats’ bill, and where is their plan?” . . .
Politico refers to this $61 billion cut this way: "If House Republican leaders are looking to tighten the nation’s fiscal belt, the budget hawks in the conservative Republican Study Committee want to apply it as a tourniquet. . . ."
Now a note on the "extremist" language used in the budget debate.
Tuesday morning, Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, was set to speak on the Senate floor and blame the “far right” for the breakdown of budget talks.
“Schumer will say the only hurdle to a deal at this point between House Republicans and the White House is the tea party conservatives’ refusal to compromise,” his office said. . . .
Apparently, Schumer didn't realize that reporters were listening in when he told other Senators how they should describe Republicans. Is this the toned down rhetoric that the Dems were promising?
Moments before a conference call with reporters was scheduled to get underway on Tuesday morning, Charles E. Schumer of New York, the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate, apparently unaware that many of the reporters were already on the line, began to instruct his fellow senators on how to talk to reporters about the contentious budget process.
After thanking his colleagues . . . Mr. Schumer told them to portray John A. Boehner of Ohio, the speaker of the House, as painted into a box by the Tea Party, and to decry the spending cuts that he wants as extreme. “I always use the word extreme,” Mr. Schumer said. “That is what the caucus instructed me to use this week.”
A minute or two into the talking-points tutorial, though, someone apparently figured out that reporters were listening, and silence fell.
Then the conference call began in earnest, with the Democrats right on message.
“We are urging Mr. Boehner to abandon the extreme right wing,” said Ms. Boxer . . .
Mr. Carper continued with the theme, referring to some House Republicans’ “right-wing extremist friends.” Mr. Cardin decried Mr. Boehner’s giving into “extremes of his party.” Mr. Blumenthal closed by speaking of the “relatively small extreme group of ideologues” who are “an anchor” dragging down the budget negotiation process. . . .