Capitol Hill Bureau Chief
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the Republican whip in the House of Representatives, predicted Tuesday that Congress will not come to an agreement on a year-long budget before the current spending agreement expires in 10 days.
"Because of the lack of action, Republicans will be prepared in the House to do another two- or three- or four-week [continuing resolution]," McCarthy told reporters at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. "But each time, we're going to go at it taking more bites, making sure we have cuts out there that will make the economy stronger."
McCarthy blamed Democrats for the slow progress in the budget negotiations, which have failed to produce an agreement on how to fund the government beyond March 18.
Not only did Vice President Joe Biden leave the country a few days after being tapped as the White House point person in the talks, McCarthy faulted Democrats for failing to hold a vote on any year-long funding measures.
"I'm concerned about how seriously they're taking this," he said. "You can't negotiate with yourself."
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said on the Senate floor Tuesday that he would not vote for his own party's CR proposal, which would cut $6.5 billion, saying it "doesn't nearly go far enough." But he also criticized the GOP plan, which "blindly hacks the budget," and President Obama, who has "failed to lead this debate."
The Senate is expected to vote on two seven-month spending bills Tuesday afternoon -- one proposal each from Democrats and Republicans on funding the government through October 2011, the beginning of the next fiscal year.
The GOP bill, passed last month by the House, would slice $57 billion from the current budget year through cuts to programs dear to Democrats' hearts, like the health care reform bill, Pell grants, early learning programs, nutrition for women and children, and funding for Planned Parenthood.
On Tuesday, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) called the Republican measure "a meat ax, hatchet, reckless budget."
The Democratic cuts would eliminate earmarks and zero out funds for several highway projects and programs that Obama has agreed to end.
But on Monday night, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid predicted both votes would fail, leaving unanswered the question of how to fund the government beyond the next two weeks, and sending senators back to the negotiating table one more time.