WASHINGTON — Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, predicted yesterday that senators would reject House Republicans’ deep budget cuts, setting up tense negotiations and the need for another short-term spending measure to keep the government operating.
Durbin said Republicans were unfairly and unwisely placing the burden of spending cuts on domestic programs. “I’m willing to see more deficit reduction, but not out of domestic discretionary spending,’’ he said on “Fox News Sunday.’’
In response to a House-passed bill that would cut $61 billion from the federal budget, Senate Democrats put forward a measure that would trim just $6.5 billion from domestic agencies, as President Obama proposed.
That would erase billions in cuts for education, housing, and other programs sought by Republicans, but leave a massive gap between the sides. Nonetheless, Obama’s chief of staff, William Daley, said the White House and Republicans were not as far apart as the numbers would suggest.
“However you slice it, there is a challenge to our government,’’ Daley said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.’’
The House and the Senate must agree on a budget, he added, “or this government doesn’t fund itself and we look ridiculous.’’
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Obama was not serious about the spending and deficit issues even though he had had several discussions with the president.
“What I don’t see now is any willingness to do anything that’s difficult,’’ said McConnell, who appeared on CBS’s “Face the Nation.’’
Durbin said he hoped that, after a Senate vote on the budget, lawmakers could reach a bipartisan agreement.
Senator John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, dismissed the budget cuts supported by House Republicans as an “ideological, extremist, reckless statement’’ rather than a serious economic plan.
Last week Congress passed a bill to fund the government — a continuing resolution — for two weeks, until March 18.