Setting the stage for another showdown over government spending, top Senate Democrats rejected the House Republicans’ new budget proposal Thursday, but said they were ruling out a government shutdown.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s plan to slash $74 billion from the federal budget “unworkable” and “more draconian than we originally anticipated,” but said he would not consider a government shutdown “under any circumstances.”
Congress and the White House must come to an agreement on the budget before the current continuing resolution expires on March 4, or, if more time is needed to negotiate, pass another stop-gap measure to keep the government funded for an extra few weeks.
The battle over the budget is inevitable: Democrats will resist the cuts Republicans propose, and conservative Republicans may even put up a fight if they don’t find the spending measures adequate. As much as Congress will work behind the scenes to prevent a shutdown, expect to see them out in public working hard not to be blamed if it occurs.
Senate Democrats tried to draw this line early by making an unprovoked announcement about the prospects for a government shutdown like the one that occurred twice in the 1990s when the Republican House could not come to an agreement with President Bill Clinton on the budget.
New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate, said that despite his party controlling the White House and Senate, Republicans would ultimately be to blame if an agreement is not reached.
“I would be against a government shutdown. Period,” Schumer said. “If they don’t budge and say they want a government shutdown, they’re causing it. We’re not going to do that.”
“Some of their ideas are just off the table,” he added. “If you just say, ‘if you don’t do it my way, I’m going to shut the government down, I’m going to let the government default,’ that is so wrong.”
When asked, Republican House and Senate leaders say they have no intention to provoke a shutdown.