Budget Battle: Is the Government on the Brink of a Shutdown?

Tea Party groups say the $33 billion compromise figure is far from acceptable.

ByABC News
April 1, 2011, 5:50 PM

April 4, 2011— -- Members of Congress are working behind closed doors to hash out a deal to fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year as federal workers nervously prepare contingency plans.

But just five days away from the deadline, the threat of a government shutdown looks more real than it has in recent weeks as pressure from the Tea Party and conservative lawmakers mounts.

Democratic sources indicated last week that the two sides had agreed $33 billion would be slashed from the 2011 budget. But the GOP leadership has downplayed those reports amid calls from their caucus that the number is far from acceptable.

"Heck no, it's not enough," freshman Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Ill., a Tea Party supporter, told ABC News. "The deficit and the debt that we're under right now demand a bigger number.

"In general, I'd be very disappointed in an amount like that and I'd have a real hard time supporting it," said Walsh, who bucked his party last month and voted against the last temporary extension.

Lawmakers narrowly averted two shutdowns in recent weeks by passing short-term stopgap measures. But a growing number of Republicans, pressured by Tea Party groups, say they won't support such a move again, even it results in a government shutdown.

On March 15, 54 Republicans rebelled against their party's leadership to vote against a temporary extension, and with growing agitation over the budget, more are likely to jump on that bandwagon.

Walsh and many of his colleagues say they want to stick to the $61 billion in cuts proposed in the original continuing resolution that passed on Feb. 19. The two short-term extensions cut a total of $10 billion.

To some Tea Party groups, even that's not enough.

The $33 billion figure is "an insult to every hardworking American taxpayer," said Mark Meckler, national coordinator for Tea Party Patriots, which held a rally on Capitol Hill last week to pressure lawmakers not to cave in to Democratic demands. "What we're asking for is $100 billion total. What we're asking Congress to do is remove roughly 2.6 cents of every federal dollar spent."

Though Tea Party groups argue that the figure is hardly draconian, coming together on what should be cut will not be an easy task.

Democrats already have rejected a series of proposals being floated by House Republicans, charging they are using the budget to push their social and ideological agendas.

"We are not going to bend on some of these ridiculous riders they have," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on Friday.

Republicans want to contain the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to restrict greenhouse gas emissions, a mandate that has expanded in the Obama administration. The budget bill would include a measure that would eliminate funding for the EPA to regulate emissions polluters like power plants and refineries.

Another controversial measure would strip Planned Parenthood of any funding that it receives from the federal government, and reinstate the "Mexico City policy" that bars organizations that promote or provide abortion services from receiving U.S. government funds. The policy was turned back under President Obama.