From NBC's Luke Russert
How much will Democrats be willing to cut to the federal budget for the rest of fiscal year 2011 to avoid a future government shutdown? It remains unclear. At a news conference today on Capitol Hill, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) declined to offer a number in regards to how much Democrats would be willing to cut from the current budget.
"You don’t expect me to announce it right here?” Pelosi said. She continued, “Democrats stand ready to meet with Republicans half way on this, that would be fair.”
What is half way?
Democrats contend they have supported more than $41 billion in cuts to President Obama’s requested fiscal year 2011 budget. That $41 billion comes from a vote in December 2010, which called for the budget to operate at a continued spending freeze at fiscal year 2010 levels till March of 2011. In essence, the $41 billion dollars in cuts to Obama’s desired budget came from the fact that House Democrats took the 2010 budget into the first three months of 2011.
During the 2010 mid-term campaign, Republicans in their “Pledge to America” promised to cut $100 billion from President Obama’s requested fiscal year 2011 budget. In 2010, House Democrats failed to pass a budget for fiscal year 2011. Therefore, the government is currently operating under fiscal year 2010 levels.
Two weeks ago, House Republicans proposed to cut $61 billion from the current spending levels that fund the government. The GOP cut $747 million from the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program and $119 million from an educational grant to improve teaching amongst other things. When asked if Democrats would put forth a counter offer to the $61 billion dollars that Republicans want to cut, Pelosi said:
"What we have to do is get a fair shake for the American people. This is about who can cut more without any scrutiny or subjecting these cuts to the scrutiny of what they do. You may think you are cutting but you aren't saving because your cuts maybe very unwise when it comes to education. Nothing brings more to the treasury than investing in education. Republican cuts to education present a false economy. This isn't just about numbers in the amount of cuts; it's about what is cut."
When pressed further for a concrete number, Pelosi responded, "I'm not going to say that number, because I'm not approximating or conceiving or stipulating to any number.”
The inability of Democrats to suggest a dollar number for cuts to the current budget has invigorated Republicans. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor spokesman Brad Dayspring quickly sent out the following release after Pelosi’s press conference:
“It is remarkable that with families small businesses tightening their belts and a debt that stifles investment and private sector job growth, former Speaker Pelosi still has not offered a plan that cuts a single dollar from current federal spending levels. People deserve honest leadership, and a Congress that is serious about getting its fiscal House in order – not this unserious malarkey that Leader Reid and former Speaker Pelosi keep throwing around.”
Later today, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) Pelosi, Sens. Reid (D-NV) and McConnell (R-KY) will meet with Vice President Biden to begin talks in an effort to try and agree a long term government funding bill for the rest of fiscal year 2011. It is unknown if Democrats will offer a dollar figure on how much they’d be willing to cut from the budget to appease Republicans. As of 3:30 pm ET, the figure stands at $0 on top of the $4 billion in cuts that was agreed to earlier this week to keep the government operating another 14 days.