President Barack Obama isn’t waiting for Senate Democrats to reject House Republicans’ proposed $61 billion in spending cuts for this year’s government operations.
Even before the bill passed the House, as expected later this week, Obama fired a shot across Congress’ bow and threatened to veto the spending bill that would keep the government running after March 4.
The Office of Management and Budget, in an official statement of administration policy, threatened to veto the Republican continuing resolution, which funds the government after March 4 and would cut $61 billion from the budget for rest of this fiscal year.
While the administration supports reducing spending to cut the deficit, the OMB said, it “does not support deep cuts that will undermine our ability to out-educate, out-build, and out-innovate the rest of the world.”
The OMB specifically targeted the House GOP’s proposed cuts to defense spending. The defense cuts are already dividing Republicans many of whom view any spending on national security as a sacred cow that should be spared the scalpel.
“The bill proposes cuts that would sharply undermine core government functions and investments key to economic growth and job creation, and would reduce funding for the Department of Defense to a level that would leave the Department without the resources and flexibility needed to meet vital military requirements,” the OMB statement added.
The administration’s veto threat comes as the Republican House begins debate on the continuing resolution Tuesday afternoon. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has pledged an “open” debate, meaning that lawmakers could add broad range of amendments to the legislation, cutting spending even further.
The statement also demonstrates the deep divisions between Democrats and House Republicans on the issue of spending and draws a line in the sand over what President Obama will and won’t tolerate.
But the stakes are enormously high for both sides. The bill or another stop-gap measure must be passed by March 4 in order to keep the government up and running. If the House manages to push some of the cuts the administration opposes through the Senate, Obama would be forced to veto the bill. Without some sort of short-term fix, a government shutdown would be unavoidable.
House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) said Tuesday morning, however, that Republicans would pass another short-term government funding bill rather than risking a shutdown.
“The Administration looks forward to working with the Congress to refine the legislation to allow critical government functions to operate without interruption for the remainder of the fiscal year underway,” the statement concluded.