From NBC's Ken Strickland
While maintaining their stance that any short-term agreement to avert a government shutdown should freeze spending at current levels, Senate Democratic staffers are starting to identify areas to cut spending for the long term in a bill that would fund government operations through this fiscal year.
According to a Democratic source, appropriations and leadership staff are going through President Obama's 2012 budget request to see which of those spending cuts could be applied this year. They're also considering cutting $8.5 billion worth of earmarks, which are included in the current funding bill that passed last December.
The source says Republicans are "trying to confuse people" by suggesting Democrats object to any spending cuts.
Senate Democrats maintain that keeping spending at the current level provides billions of dollars in cuts when measured against president 2011 budget request. (However, that request was never enacted.)
"Senate Democrats have already agreed to a five-year spending freeze and $41 billion in spending cuts and we're willing to go further," said the Senate's No. 2 Democrat, Dick Durbin, in a written statement today. "But that requires the sort of good-faith negotiations House Republicans refuse to engage in."