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House GOP floats two-week stopgap bill with $4 billion in cuts

From NBC's Luke Russert
A GOP aide tells NBC News that the House GOP Leadership along with the House Appropriations Committee is working on a temporary funding measure for the nation's budget that would cut current spending levels and still have a real chance of passing the U.S. Senate.

The compromise would call for $4 billion in spending cuts from current fiscal year 2011 spending levels over two weeks from March 4th through March 18th.

Right now, the current continuing resolution (the funding of the U.S. government) expires on March 4th at 11:59pm.

Republicans contend the cuts would come from non-controversial areas of government and also touch on things that President Obama has said could be cut in the past.

"Senator Reid and Senator Schumer's position that they will force a government shutdown rather than cut any spending is indefensible," a GOP aide said. "It'll be very hard for them to oppose a reasonable short-term funding measure that will cut spending over a two-week period."

The aide also tells NBC News that the GOP leadership doesn't expect their 87-member activist freshman class to derail the two-week budget proposal. The timeline as to when it would be voted on in the House would be in the middle of next week.

Late last week the House passed at budget for the rest of fiscal year 2011 that included $61 billion dollars in cuts through September. That budget will likely not go anywhere in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Speaker John Boehner has rejected any compromise from Reid that would keep current spending levels frozen temporarily until a longer budget bill could be worked out between the House and the Senate.

The bill being crafted by the GOP leadership is aimed at attracting support from moderate Democrats in the Senate. A GOP aide speculated that the compromise bill might appeal to Sens. McCaskill, Tester, Manchin, and Warner.

The hope of the GOP leadership is that the two-week compromise would prevent a government shutdown and give the House and Senate some time to agree on a budget that cuts spending for fiscal year 2011.

*** UPDATE *** NBC's Ken Strickland notes that the $4-billion two-week short term fix is equal to a pro-rated amount of the $61-billion worth of spending cuts in the long-term Continuing Resolution the House passed last week.

In other words, if you divided $61-billion into the remaining weeks of the fiscal year, it would be about $2 billion per week. For two weeks--the likely length of the short term stopgap bill -- that would be $4 billion.

That does not sit well with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who said in a statement:

"The Republicans' so-called compromise is nothing more than the same extreme package the House already handed the Senate, just with a different bow. This isn't a compromise, it's a hardening of their original position. This bill would simply be a two-week version of the reckless measure the House passed last weekend. It would impose the same spending levels in the short term as their initial proposal does in the long term, and it isn't going to fool anyone. Both proposals are non-starters in the Senate.