March 5, 2013

House bill may avert March 31 government shutdown

Despite proposed shifts, the Republican plan would lock in the $85 billion in cuts through Sept. 30.

By ROSALIND S. HELDERMAN The Washington Post

(Continued from page 1)

Health and retirement programs are the fastest-growing part of the federal budget but they were shielded as part of the deal that created the sequester in the summer of 2011.

A new deadline this summer to once again raise the nation's debt ceiling could provide pressure to come up with a deal.

Obama told members of his Cabinet on Monday that he is remains interested in the kind of deficit deal that has been the subject of repeated rounds of failed talks between the White House and Congressional leaders.

"I will continue to seek out partners on the other side of the aisle so that we can create the kind of balanced approach of spending cuts, revenues, entitlement reform that everybody knows is the right way to do things," Obama said.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday that the effort has included phone calls from Obama to Republican rank-and-file senators -- what Carney dubbed the "common-sense caucus" -- vigorous Congressional outreach that has been rare for this president.

The White House would not release a full list of the calls, but Congressional sources confirmed they included conversations with Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who have long expressed interest in a broad deficit reduction deal.

Obama also spoke Monday with moderate Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and met last week at the White House with Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

As for the $982 billion continuing resolution, its first test will be the House later this week. Republican leaders will have to soothe anxious conservatives who had rallied around a $974 billion outlay as a ceiling for spending for the year and were surprised to see the bill introduced with $8 billion more.

"There will be some of us very frustrated if we're suddenly creeping billions of dollars back into the bill," said Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah.

House Appropriations committee staffers will explain at a closed-door meeting with Republicans on Tuesday morning that the measure fully implements sequestration but the higher number is a more accurate reflection of its impact across all government programs.

In the House's proposal, only the Pentagon would receive broad new help to soften the effect of across-the-board cuts.

The resolution would restore no funding to the military, which absorbed half of the sequester reductions.

But it does reflect new priorities for military spending negotiated between Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate late last year.

For instance, the House measure proposes adding $10.4 billion to the Pentagon's operations and maintenance budget.

The money would be offset with other defense cuts.

 

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