Fears of government shutdown revived

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Fears over a government shutdown have resurfaced following an apparent breakdown in talks between House Republicans and Senate and White House Democrats over a spending bill to fund the remainder of the current federal fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30.

Congress so far has refused to approve a spending bill that would fund agencies for their entire fiscal year, as is generally traditional, opting instead to pass a series of short term measures called continuing resolutions that have funded the government for just a few weeks or months. The current CR expires on midnight of April 8.

News of the breakdown surfaced March 25 following remarks by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program that the two sides were "getting closer on the number," disagreeing mostly on "where you should cut."

This prompted a flurry of Republican rejoinders, with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) charging Democrats with failing to "put forward a credible, long-term plan to resolve their budget mess," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) labeling Schumer's comments "completely farfetched" and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) issuing a statement that "we still haven't seen anything resembling a serious proposal from the White House or Senate Democrats."

By Friday evening, Schumer had released a new statement calling on House Republicans to "stand up to the Tea Party and resume the negotiations that had seemed so full of promise."

An article in the New York Times cites congressional officials who say talks broke down March 22 when participants couldn't agree over which continuing resolution would form the basis of the compromise measure to fund the remainder of the fiscal year.

Republicans, says the Times, wanted as a basis of negotiation a measure the House approved on party lines in February that would cut $61 billion from federal agencies (when compared to last year's levels, or $100 billion when measured against this year's budget proposal), while Democrats wanted to use the current continuing resolution, which cut $6 billion (compared to last year). An earlier continuing resolution has already made an additional $4 billion worth of cuts from last year's levels.

The Tuesday meeting "abruptly broke up, with talks resuming haltingly since then," the Times add. The Washington Post says the Republican demand to use the House-passed bill that cuts $61 billion was unexpected by Democrats.

A March 28 Wall Street Journal article says Democratic officials are preparing a proposal that would make $20 billion in cuts in addition to the $10 billion already enacted, but cites GOP congressional aides who say they received no new proposal from the White House over the weekend.

Activists from the Tea Party Patriots, meanwhile, have circulated an email calling for a March 31 rally on Capitol Hill, say various publications. "We sent [Republicans] there to be bold and yet their actions are showing otherwise," says the Tea Party email, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The White House, however, has signaled that it intends not to accept the $61 billion cut plan. In a March 25 Office of Management and Budget statement given to Politico, White House officials said the House plan "would undermine our economic growth by cutting areas that are vital to our future, including education, research and development and investments in building the infrastructure we need."

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