House Republican leaders are set to unveil their proposal for another stopgap spending bill that cuts $4 billion from current discretionary spending levels and keeps the government running for two more weeks while Democrats and Republicans negotiate a compromise for the remainder of the fiscal year. The House is likely to begin consideration of the short-term continuing resolution on Tuesday.
In a conference call Friday, House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., said the proposal is a good-faith effort that would give lawmakers until March 18 to reach an agreement to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year. The current CR expires March 4.
"A government shutdown is not an acceptable or responsible option for Republicans," Cantor said.
The $4 billion in cuts comes from reductions and terminations to programs recommended in President Obama's fiscal 2012 budget proposal, as well as funding from some earmarks, which Congress and the White House have all sworn off.
"We hope the Senate will finally join us in these common-sense cuts to keep the government running and not continue to play chicken with a government shutdown," Cantor said.
House Majority Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who was also on the call, said the two-week window is long enough to find a compromise but short enough to keep the pressure on. The shutdown rhetoric from both Republicans and Democrats has heightened in recent days as the March 4 deadline approaches.
The House's short-term CR comes after House Republicans last week passed a CR for the remainder of the fiscal year that would cut about $60 billion from current discretionary spending levels.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, outlined the two-week proposal this week after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced his own plans to bring up a 30-day CR that freezes spending at current levels.
The House CR is a non-starter for Senate Democrats, who charge that it would slow the nascent economic recovery and hurt the poor, who predominantly rely on government services.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said Friday in a release that the GOP CR seeks to balance the budget "by cutting desperately needed programs for hardworking Americans. Democrats must fight back and say 'no' to continued attacks on working families."
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, who is also chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, has scheduled a hearing next week to hear from military officials on the House's long-term CR proposal's effects on the Pentagon.
Senate Democrats are working on a CR proposal that would fund the government through the rest of the fiscal year and cut $8.5 billion by eliminating previously approved earmarks, according to aides. The bill would also accelerate some of the $24.7 billion in program eliminations or reductions sought by Obama in his fiscal 2012 budget proposal. The Democrats' plan would reduce that funding starting after March 4, not on October 1, at the start of the 2012 fiscal year.
Some Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., have suggested that the House long-term CR package would pick up some Democratic support if it reached the Senate floor.
Cantor said that, if true, "it is a testament to how much Republicans are changing the culture in Washington, but we will have to wait and see."
Dan Friedman contributed to this story.