Streams

Another Budget Concession for Dems?

Monday, March 28, 2011

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President Obama answers questions at the White House in February 2011. (Alex Wong/Getty)

With less than two weeks left to compromise and avoid a government shutdown, Democrats are assembling another proposal with more concessions.

The Democrats proposal will have approximately $20 billion additional spending cuts that could soon be offered to Republicans, according to the Wall Street Journal. This proposal would come after $10 billion in enacted spending cuts for the year. Republicans are seeking a total of $61 billion in in budget cuts and are under pressure from the Tea Party to get all of these cuts through the gauntlet.

Colombia University Political Science Professor, Rodolfo de la Garza said the Tea Party has had a big influence on the Republicans in the process. "They're pushing the Republicans further right and in some ways that's good for politics because it's going to polarize everything and then you can see what you've got."

In the meantime, it's the Democrats that are floundering in the budget debate, De la Garza said.

"If I'm a Republican, I have no incentive to yield because the Democrats won't fight. Obama could say, hey guys, you can do this and I'll veto the budget, but they're not drawing lines of any kind and the Republicans are drawing lines and winning." De la Garza said this is also due to the president's unwillingness to take a risk.

The Tea Party could be the true winner in the budget battle, Ezra Klein of the Washington Post argues, because of the heavy pressure they put on Republicans early on. In February, the GOP originally responded to President Obama's budget request with $32 billion in cuts for the remainder of the year, but after successful persuasion from the Tea Party, they raised the cuts to the $61 billion offer. Klein explains that if Democrats decide to put this new $20 billion proposal on the table (with $10 billion in cuts already enacted), they'll be in line with the Republicans original request of $32 billion. Not exactly a negotiation success for Democrats.

Talks between House Speaker Boehner (R-OH), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and White House Budget Director David Lew fell apart last week when the parties couldn't even agree on where to begin. Republicans wanted to begin negotiations from their proposed $61 billion in cuts and Democrats and the White House had expected to negotiate from the current spending levels. Since these events last week, it is unclear when negotiations will begin again and when (if at all) these new Democratic concessions will be offered up.

The two parties need to close a $51 billion gap in order to reach an agreement for the budget. As for where these concessions might come from — Republicans say in order to make any real dent in the deficit there must be cuts to Social Security. On behalf of many Democrats, Sen. Reid claims Social Security doesn't belong on the chopping block because it does not face any immediate fiscal problems.

Amidst the Congressional divisions, a bipartisan 'Gang of Six' may be the only hope for agreement on the budget for 2011, three months in. The 'Gang' is expected to meet again on Monday.

With the two parties at a stalemate, the federal government has been operating under various interim bills, the latest of which expires on April 8. When this decision is finally made, another big fiscal debate is waiting in the wings: the 2012 budget. Congress will begin the debate on next years federal budget as soon as April.

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