Charges fly about risking a government shutdown
WASHINGTON — In a deepening struggle over spending, Republicans and Democrats swapped charges yesterday over a possible government shutdown when funding expires March 4 for most federal agencies.
“Read my lips: We’re going to cut spending,’’ declared House Speaker John Boehner, Republican of Ohio, who pledged that the GOP-controlled House would refuse to approve even a short-term measure at current funding levels to keep the government operating.
He prefaced his remarks by accusing Democrats of risking a shutdown “rather than to cut spending and to follow the will of the American people.’’ But moments later, Senate majority leader Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, retorted that Boehner was resorting “to threats of a shutdown without any negotiation.’’
The sparring occurred as the House labored to complete work on veto-threatened legislation to cut more than $61 billion from the budget year that is more than a third over. That bill also would provide funding to keep the government operating until Sept. 30.
With that one bill at the center of a political dispute — the House has repeatedly worked well past midnight on the legislation this week — Boehner chose the moment to open a second front. To underscore the budget-cutting commitment by the 87 conservative new members of his rank and file, he announced that Republicans would move quickly this spring on companion legislation to cut “wasteful mandatory spending’’ by the federal government.
He provided no details, but party officials said they expected the effort to begin shortly after the House returns from next week’s recess.
The current legislation is sweeping in scope, containing cuts to literally hundreds of domestic programs, from education to environmental protection, nutrition, and parks.