updated 2/23/2011 2:20:50 PM ET 2011-02-23T19:20:50

The top Democrat in the Senate said Tuesday that he'll bring legislation to the floor next week to keep the government running at current spending levels for 30 days to avoid a shutdown in March.

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The move by Majority Leader Harry Reid is in keeping with longstanding tradition, but it was immediately rejected by GOP leaders who assailed the Nevada Democrat for freezing spending at levels inflated by generous budget increases provided under President Barack Obama.

As shutdown threat looms, Reid digs in

A short-term bill is required because the House on Saturday passed a $1.2 trillion omnibus spending bill to finance the government through Sept. 30. That measure would slash domestic agency budgets by more than $60 billion over the last seven months of the budget year, which would lead to widespread furloughs of federal workers and dismantle a host of environmental regulations.

Video: Senate Democrats refuse to pass GOP bill (on this page)

It will take weeks or even months to work out differences on the massive spending bill, thus requiring the stopgap bill.

Boehner rejects Reid's proposal
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, rejected Reid's proposal, which was revealed in a politically freighted statement charging that Boehner is maneuvering the government toward a shutdown by insisting on immediate spending cuts.

First Thoughts: The Party of No (Compromise)

"Speaker Boehner should stop drawing lines in the sand, and come to the table to find a responsible path forward that cuts government spending while keeping our communities safe and our economy growing," Reid said.

Boehner said, as he did last week, that the House will not pass a stopgap bill, known as a continuing resolution, at existing rates of spending.

Video: Government shutdown over budget? (on this page)

"The House will pass a short-term spending bill — one that also cuts spending," Boehner said in a statement. "Senate Democratic leaders are insisting on a status quo that has left us with a mountain of debt."

"They want cuts right now, on their terms, before a negotiation can take place," said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. "How can you say you're in good faith when you say, 'I want my demands before any negotiation.'"

Unless someone budges, a partial government shutdown could occur March 5 for the first time since two partial shutdowns in 1995-1996, including one that spanned three weeks.

Reid warned of dire consequences in the event of an impasse.

"A shutdown could send our fragile economy back into a recession, and mean no Social Security checks for seniors, less funding for border security and no paychecks for our troops," Reid said.

Video: Congress careens towards shutdown (on this page)

In fact, Social Security checks would go out as scheduled. Troop pay would be unaffected, as would a host of other government operations, like border protection, law enforcement, air traffic control and food inspection. But applications for passports and visas, national parks and payments to federal contractors would be affected.

White House says it's prepared for possible shutdown
The White House says the government is prepared for a shutdown under longstanding contingency plans that have remained in effect since the Reagan administration.

"All of this is beside the point since, as the congressional leadership has said on a number of occasions and as the president has made clear, no one anticipates or wants a government shutdown," said White House budget office spokesman Kenneth Baer.

After being blocked from passing a massive omnibus spending bill of their own last year, Democrats have agreed to a hard spending freeze at 2010 levels. That's significant because it would mean cuts to many domestic agencies in order to pay for budget increases for the Pentagon and the Veterans Administration. But it's far short of where House Republicans want to go.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Senate Democrats refuse to pass GOP bill

  1. Closed captioning of: Senate Democrats refuse to pass GOP bill

    >>> democrats and republicans have only nine days left to avoid a government shutdown . even if they do that's only the first step. the national journal ron brown steen and politico professional bureau chief join us now. ron , where do we start? you and i were at a round table this morning with tim geithner , the treasury secretary at the bloomberg news morning breakfast. he said they are first dealing with the cr but not with entitlements and doesn't seem to sense an urgency to deal with entitlements. they're looking at a three to five year spending cut plus he says revenue enhancements have to be part of it.

    >> a couple of points. there's kind of a steeplechase of hurdles one after another. first funding the federal government through the rest of the fiscal year. then they have the debt ceiling which is probably another occasion for another round of budget disputes. and then the republicans have to come out with their long-term budget. i think if history is any guide -- i mean, both sides are looking to 2012 to strengthen their hand against the other in the long term budget fight. if you look at '95 and '96 with bill clinton and the republican congress they collided for two years. after the election they were able to make a deal. in '97. i got a feeling in talking to geithner this morning he has that kind of time frame . if obama is reelected and republican reelected maybe 2013 they can do a deal. meantime they have to find a way to keep the government running.

    >> that's where we bring in martin katy. at this point do republicans feel contrary to what happened with newt gingrich this time they have the political leverage on their side and this game of chicken really favors them to go up to the brink and beyond?

    >> yeah. there's an argument to be made and republicans make it it is different this time. it's not 1995 . the mood among american voters is much more anti-spending and concern about the deficit. we have people covering town halls during this brief recess and they are still hearing that sort of tea party driven passion. yeah, shut down the government. don't compromise. we're hearing that sort of thing from town halls now. congress comes back monday. they have four days to figure out a compromise that's somewhere between the house cut of $60 billion and the senate cut of essentially zero. and they're going to either find another continuing resolution, stop gap measure or midnight next friday the government runs out of money and we head into a shutdown.

    >> ron , finally. what we heard from tim geithner was that they might move towards some framework of the deficit reduction commission for down the road but they don't see any short-term need to deal with a long-term big issues, entightment issues or pressure from the markets either.

    >> i think they feel leery there is an opportunity to make a fundamental long term agreement between the sides. federal revenue the last few years is running 15% of the economy, the lowest since 1950 . entitlements are half the spending. you have a lot of big issues the two sides have a hard time coming to and may not be until the voters give a sense of the landscape in 2012 .

    >> ron brownstein.


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