Faced with the looming prospect of a government shutdown, Senate Democrats are scrambling to put together their own spending plan for the remaining seven months of the year. Republicans only need four Democratic Senators to defect for them to pass the House GOP's budget bill, which includes a whopping $61 billion in cuts. Senate Dems, however, are trying to outflank them by putting together their own budget to fund the government for the remainder of 2011.
Senate Dems are aiming to craft a short-term budget bill to satisfy moderates without enraging liberals—legislation that must be passed before March 4, when the government runs out of money. Democrats are reportedly going to propose some $41 billion in cuts "to avoid the blame if the government shuts down, showing that they are willing to compromise—unlike their adversaries," Politico's Manu Raju reports.
The bulk of the cuts—$33 billion in total—will follow recommendations that Obama had put in the 2012 budget, with an addition $8.5 billion in earmark spending. But it's unclear exactly which programs the Senate Democrats will choose to target, as Obama's own budget contained some proposals unpopular with his own party, Raju explains. Will the Senate follow Obama's cut to low-income heating assistance, risking liberal rage? Or risk pushback from coal-heavy state legislators by cutting subsidies to the industry?
One thing's for sure, though: Senate Democrats aren't going to touch funding for health-care reform. According to Senate aides, "that means no defunding of the health care law, and no defunding of Planned Parenthood either."