The White House and House Republicans are negotiating a compromise to pass a budget for the rest of the fiscal year--all six months of it--but the talks aren't going so well. A government shutdown is looking more and more likely as the April 8 deadline to pass a buget nears. Last week, discussions failed because they sides couldn't even agree over where to begin, The Wall Street Journal's Janet Hook and Damian Paletta report. As the pressure builds, all sides are working very hard--to spread around blame for the standoff, naturally. Whose fault is this mess? A guide to the implicated parties.
The White House
The Obama administration has crafted a new budget proposal that attempts to meet House Republicans halfway--cutting the president's initial budget request by about $70 billion, Politico's David Rogers reports. White House chief of staff Bill Daley has been sent in to work on the deal, but Senate Democrats don't like this "freelancing." And, Rogers reports, Republicans are eager to use the process "to wipe out the 2008 elections and deny Obama the resources he wants for his initiatives. Given the personal nature of this attack, it baffles lawmakers that the president has kept himself so removed from the fight."
Republicans are preparing to reject the White House's offier, Talking Points Memo's Brian Beutler reports, because it includes cuts not just to discretionary spending--education, defense, etc.-- but also to entitlement programs, like Medicaid and Medicare. Republicans say this year's buget debate is supposed to be all about discretionary spending, and want to save the entitlement fight for the 2012 budget. "Using gimmicks like using mandatory spending instead of discretionary spending is not a world we want to play in," a GOP aide told Wasson.
Republicans wanted Democrats to name the spending cuts they found objectionable in the House GOP's bill, which would cut $61 billion from 2010 levels. But Democrats had expected talks to start at current spending levels--and on Tuesday, a meeting "blew up over the point," Hook and Paletta write. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor says the country will hold Democrats accountable for not accepting "sensible" budget cuts.
The Tea Party
Democrats blame a "panicky" Cantor for caving to pressure from newly elected Tea Partiers to not compromise over spending cuts. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says that "after weeks of productive negotiations" with the GOP, Tea Party Republicans can't get along with the rest of their party and thus are "scrapping all the progress," The Hill's Erik Wasson reports. The White House wants to offer an additional $20 billion in cuts, on top of the $10 billion already slashed, but that might not be enough for the Tea Party.
The Gang of Six (Part A)
Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad, who chairs the budget committee, is leading this group of senators who want to work Obama's budget commission's recommendations into a 2012 budget. "But nothing has happened, even as the celebrity attached to the six has grown to a point where they’re almost an exclusive Senate club, which other senators want to join but can’t until the six make up their minds what they are doing," Rogers reports.
The Gang of Six (Part B)
With the primary Gang of Six faltering, responsiblity has fallen on the shoulders of a second-string gang of House, Senate, and administration aides trying to forge a compromise. "All are seasoned professionals, but to a striking degree they are also new not just to one another," Rogers writes, but also just started working for their bosses. "Thus, asking that the talks move smoothly is a lot to ask."