By JONATHAN ALLEN | 2/18/11 10:04 PM EST Updated: 2/19/11 4:18 PM EST
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi introduced a stopgap spending bill Friday night that would fund the government at current levels through March 31, laying down a Democratic marker against Republican efforts to cut from the budget.
The California Democrat’s resolution was introduced as House Republican leaders tried to wrap up work on a bill that would cut $61 billion in funding the government through Sept. 30.
The Republican measure is dead on arrival in the Senate, and the government will run out of the authority to spend money on March 4 if Democratic leaders at the White House and in Congress can’t reach a compromise with House Republicans.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has said that he won’t accept even a short-term bill that doesn’t cut from current levels, while Pelosi and her Senate counterpart, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), have taken the position that a stopgap measure should fund the government without any reduction.
Something has to give, and soon. The House and Senate are both in recess next week, giving leaders just a week to come to some sort of resolution. Boehner said Friday night that he has had no contact from the White House on negotiating a short-term resolution that would keep the government running.
Pelosi argues that there isn’t time to work out a longer-term deal before a possible government shutdown.
“This legislation will allow Congress to complete work on [fiscal year] 2011 appropriations without punishing the American people by denying them vital services,” she said. “This bill would continue the freeze in government spending contained in the current [continuing resolution]. In order to give Congress time to finish the legislation and avoid the calamitous effect of a government shutdown on the American people, I am hopeful Republican leaders will agree to a short-term extension of the freeze as we work to pass a bill the president can sign into law for the remainder of 2011.”
Since she is in the minority, Pelosi’s resolution is a symbolic statement of her preferred policy. It comes on the same day that one of her aides told Democratic chiefs of staff there is a better than even chance of a government shutdown — a message that does not comport with Pelosi’s public stance.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) reacted quickly to Pelosi’s proposal, knocking Democrats for opposing even the slightest of spending cuts.
“While Republicans in the House of Representatives are making a genuine effort to cut spending and debt, Democrats continue to line up behind the president’s timid proposal for locking in the massive spending levels that Americans rejected just three months ago,” McConnell said in a statement to POLITICO. “In other words, Democrat leaders in Congress intend to join the president in resigning themselves to a future of higher unemployment and spiraling debt at a time when Americans are demanding smaller government instead. Americans have been clear: freezing in place the current unsustainable spending levels is simply unacceptable.”