ABC News’ John R. Parkinson reports:
The top-two Congressional Republicans agree that the Senate’s vote Wednesday morning to approve a two-week continuing resolution is a “positive step in the right direction” but renewed the GOP’s call for Senate Democrats to formulate a plan to cut federal spending or else vote on the long-term spending bill passed by the House on Feb. 19.
Speaker of the House John Boehner said that the GOP-led House has passed two alternative spending bills to avert a government shutdown and Republicans will wait for the Senate to act before compromising on a long-term solution.
“The American people want us to focus on creating jobs and cutting spending, and passage of this short-term spending bill I think shows that we're listening to the American people. I think today's Senate vote is a positive step in the right direction,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said. “Passing the short-term bill gives Senate Democrats two more weeks to either consider H.R. 1 or outline their own plans for how we move ahead. Americans have the right to know where Senate Democrats' plan to cut spending and fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year is. And so we're waiting for them.”
Earlier Wednesday, the Senate approved the House’s two-week extension, which includes just over $4 billion in spending cuts. The spending bill cuts about $1.24 billion from eight programs that President Obama had proposed be cut from his 2012 budget, while also eliminating $2.7 billion in earmarks. The bill also funds government operations through midnight on March 18.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also emphasized the onus is now on Senate Democrats to reveal their plan before Congress can come to an amiable solution.
“Even though it was only a two-week bill and a $4 billion reduction in spending, it is the first time I can recall in the time that I've been here our actually cutting spending on an appropriation bill. It's a small step, but a step in the right direction,” McConnell said. “Now the question is, where are the Senate Democrats going to take us? What is their proposal? That would be the next step to try to resolve this for the balance of the year, and we look forward to hearing from the majority in the Senate.”
Shortly after the Senate vote, the President Obama assigned Vice President Joe Biden, Chief of Staff Bill Daley and Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew to Capitol Hill to negotiate a long-term spending bill with Congressional leadership.
McConnell and Boehner maintain that before talks with the White House are underway, Democrats must to establish a more definitive position in order to determine a starting point for negotiations.
“We just heard about this suggestion of the people who were supposed to be invited to a discussion on the way in here, so we'll take a look at what they have to say,” McConnell, R-Kentucky, said. “But obviously, if I were [the Congressional Press Corps], I'd be asking Senate Democrats how they feel about commencing such a discussion.”
“Where is the Senate Democratic proposal? Where are they on the question of how do we fund the government for the balance of the year?” McConnell asked.
“It's important to make clear that we've been in discussions with our Democrat colleagues for weeks. This isn't something new, and the House's position is we passed a bill. It's out there,” Boehner added. “It's time for them to outline for us what's their position to keep the government funded. We've done our work in the House.”
But with only two weeks until the threat of government shutdown resurfaces, Boehner was adamant that Congress will find a solution to cut spending while keeping the government open for business.
“There's no threat of a government shutdown. I've been reading this for weeks, and I chuckle,” Boehner said. “Our goal was never to shut down the government. Our goal is to cut spending. We're listening to the American people. They don't want the government shut down. They want us to cut spending, and that's what we're going to do.”