By MICHAEL FALCONE and AMY WALTER
One of the clearest signals yet that Congressional leaders appear to have steered clear of a government shutdown — at least for now — were Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad’s comments about the House GOP’s two-week continuing resolution on Sunday.
“It is acceptable to me to have $4 billion in savings in a two-week package,” the North Dakota Democrat said in an interview on CNN this weekend. “The makeup of that … is up for discussion and negotiation. That negotiation is ongoing. And I'm confident we'll achieve conclusion on that.”
Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but certainly a sign from a senior Senate Democrat that Congress is on a path to approve the proposal (which, as Conrad noted, contains $4 billion in cuts) before the March 4 deadline when the government runs out of money.
In a roundtable interview with ABC’s Jake Tapper on “This Week” on Sunday, several of the nation’s governors also expressed their desire to avert a shutdown.
“All of us are dealing with these kinds of challenges, and trying to get our budget gaps closed," Gov. Deval Patrick, D-Mass. said. “There's another way, it's about turning towards each other instead of against each other.” http://abcn.ws/gwHg7Q
Late Friday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s spokesman, Jon Summers, pronounced himself “encouraged to hear that Republicans are abandoning their demands for extreme measures like cuts to border security, cancer research and food safety inspectors and instead moving closer to Democrats’ position that we should cut government spending in a smart, responsible way that targets waste and excess while keeping our economy growing.”
And over the weekend, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, put the need to cut spending, reduce the deficit, address entitlement reform — and to avoid a government shutdown — in moral terms in a speech he delivered to the National Association of Religious Broadcasters in Nashville. http://abcn.ws/eZdOS9
“This is very simple, Americans want the government to stay open, and they want it to spend less money,” Boehner said. “We don't need to shut down the government to accomplish that. We just need to do what the American people are asking of us.”
But as usual, it gets more complicated. Boehner alluded to the rough road ahead in his Sunday speech when he told the audience, “To not address entitlement programs, as is the case with the budget the president has put forward, would be an economic and moral failure.” In other words, as we’ve known all along, much more difficult negotiations loom.
As ABC’s Rick Klein notes, “another temporary extension would only delay the clash that could bring a temporary shutdown. Congress hasn't come this close to failing to approve government spending since the stand-off between President Clinton and GOP leaders of Congress in late 1995 and early 1996.”
Klein explores what a government shutdown would actually look like — which government services would come to a halt and which would not, who would be out of a job and whether members of Congress be affected? Democrats and Republicans are inching toward a compromise this week, but two weeks from now, anything could happen. http://abcn.ws/ezhITM
THE GOVERNORS’ PERSPECTIVE. “Facing an oncoming federal budget crisis, Republican governors Nikki Haley of South Carolina and Jan Brewer of Arizona both said a government shutdown would not be productive for the country,” ABC’s Lauren Effron rounds up Jake Tapper’s “This Week” roundtable interview with four governors, including Democrats Deval Patrick of Massachusetts and John Hickenlooper of Colorado. “‘I think government is a necessary evil,’ Brewer said. ‘But it's necessary to provide services, and they should be able to come to some solution. We need to trim the budget and move on.’… Haley, at 39 years old the youngest governor ever elected, praised the GOP's proposed plan for $50 million in spending cuts, but said she felt it was Obama's responsibility to listen to Republican legislators instead of forcing Republicans to listen to his plan. ‘[The Republicans] are just doing what the people are asking of them,’ she said. Both Haley and Brewer also condemned the 14 Democratic state senators in Wisconsin who staged a walk-out of the state house in Madison last week in the wake of the labor protests, calling their actions ‘shameful.’” http://abcn.ws/gwHg7Q
WHITE HOUSE WATCH. President Obama will host a meeting with a bipartisan group of governors in the State Dining Room today, following on the heels of the president's meeting with a small group of Democratic governors and after hosting a governors’ dinner at the White House last night. In the afternoon, the President will meet with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in the Oval Office to discuss the situation in Libya. http://abcn.ws/ih9hzh
ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE.” ABC’s Jonathan Karl and Rick Klein interview freshman Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Indiana, a member of the House Budget Committee Member about the action on Capitol Hill this week. Also on the program, Norman Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. http://bit.ly/ABCTopLine
LIBYA UPDATE. “The United States pressed its European allies on Monday to set tough sanctions on the Libyan government, and Germany responded with a far-reaching proposal to cut off all oil and other payments to the country for 60 days so that Moammar Gadhafi's regime cannot use the money to repress his people,” the AP's Bradley Klapper reports. “German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle's call essentially amounted to an economic embargo and ranks among the toughest proposal yet aimed at forcing Gadhafi to stem attacks on his opponents and leave power after 42 years in control of his country. [Secretary of State Hillary] Clinton was also making the administration's case for stronger action to foreign ministers from Britain, France and Italy as part of a series of high-level talks in this Swiss city. She also met with the European Union's top diplomat, Catherine Ashton, who told reporters that European governments would set new sanctions on Gadhafi's regime such as an embargo on equipment that might be used against Libyans.” http://yhoo.it/faZQs3
NEW REALITY FOR UNIONS. “Across Ohio last week, the legislative push to restrict the union rights of government workers was greeted again and again by noisy protests. But in this state dotted with manufacturing plants and their locals, this may have been more striking: At least some elected officials normally sympathetic to industrial unions were questioning whether they should side with government workers,” The Washington Post’s Peter Whoriskey and Amy Gardner write. “Throughout U.S. history, the most prominent union clashes largely involved employees squaring off against big corporate owners over how to share profits. The recent state budget controversies feature union members bargaining against state and local governments over wages and benefits provided by taxpayers. The shift reflects the profound changes in American unionism. Last year, for the first time in American history, a majority of union members worked for the government rather than private firms. About 36 percent of government workers, or 7.6 million people, are members of unions, compared with about 7 percent of private-sector workers, or 7.1 million people, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.” http://wapo.st/dTbvbF
GOVS SAY ‘NO’ TO BANKRUPTCY. “Governors on Sunday slammed talk of federal action to allow states to declare bankruptcy and said the idea would ultimately do more harm than good,” ABC’s Mary Bruce notes. “‘Suggestions have been brought forward and some speculation that states are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. I’m here to say I believe that’s a dangerous development,’ Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said at a panel on the state of public finance at the National Governors Association winter meeting. … Herbert, who chairs the NGA’s Economic Development and Commerce Committee, went on to say that Congressional talk about a state bankruptcy option ‘brings uncertainty to the marketplace and causes a potential increase in interest rates.’ … Congress has held several hearings on the possibility of allowing states to declare bankruptcy, which, proponents argue, would help cash-strapped states get back on track by relieving them of debt. Influential Republicans, including Newt Gingrich and Jeb Bush, have suggested bankruptcy would give states the option to reorganize their finances and free themselves from union obligations.” http://abcn.ws/dEWmFH
JUSTICE THOMAS GETS FEISTY. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas — his impartiality under attack from liberals because of his attendance at a meeting of conservative donors sponsored by the Koch brothers and his wife’s tea party activism — struck a defiant tone in a Saturday night speech in Charlottesville, Va., telling a friendly audience that he and his wife ‘believe in the same things’ and ‘are focused on defending liberty,’” Politico’s Kenneth P. Vogel reports. “Delivering the keynote speech at an annual symposium for conservative law students, Thomas spoke in vague, but ominous, terms about the direction of the country and urged his listeners to ‘redouble your efforts to learn about our country so that you’re in a position to defend it.’ He also lashed out at his critics, without naming them, asserting they ‘seem bent on undermining’ the High Court as an institution. Such criticism, Thomas warned, could erode the ability of American citizens to fend off threats to their way of life. ‘You all are going to be, unfortunately, the recipients of the fallout from that — that there’s going to be a day when you need these institutions to be credible and to be fully functioning to protect your liberties,’ he said.” http://politi.co/ihQ7TV
WHIPPING THE WHITE HOUSE INTO SHAPE. The New York Times’ Ashley Parker profiles White House fitness guru Cornell McClellan, “a genial master tormenter who is the secret weapon behind Michelle Obama’s famously toned arms and who has overseen both Obamas’ exercise programs for more than a decade. … An unassuming 54-year-old with a compact body and an easy laugh, Mr. McClellan has become the unlikely man at the center of a group of top staff members who work out with him, gossip with him, talk about him and even rat one another out to him, especially when someone –that means you, David Axelrod — slips up and gets an extra scoop of ice cream in the White House mess. (But the real culprit, aides joke, are the M&Ms found throughout the West Wing). … The president, a well-known fitness buff, does a mixture of cardio and strength training and spends his free time playing basketball and golf. ‘He is very motivated and he loves to work, so that makes it very easy for me,’ Mr. McClellan said. People who have seen Mr. Obama at the gym, wearing black wind pants and a dark baseball cap, say that sometimes he and Mrs. Obama work out together, and that he runs hard on the treadmill, with the television tuned to ‘SportsCenter’ on ESPN.” http://nyti.ms/gC5dJ1
@markknoller: It's another Winter Rebate Day in DC. Temps headed into the 70s this afternoon. Withhold your Winter subscription payments or get a rebate.
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