WASHINGTON -- Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) declared on Sunday that his party was unwilling to budge one cent further on the number of cuts it included in its budget proposal, even with a government shutdown looming in less than two weeks.
The Illinois Democrat, in an appearance on "Fox News Sunday," said that in offering $10 billion in cuts from current spending levels, Democrats had, in his estimation, “pushed this to the limit.” Cutting additional discretionary spending -- which constitutes roughly 12 percent of the budget deficit –- in the hopes of balancing the budget was not only, quite literally, impossible, but counterproductive to economic recovery.
“To go any further is to push more kids out of school, to stifle the innovation which small businesses and large alike need to create more jobs, and it stops the investment in infrastructure which kills good paying jobs right here in the United States,” said Durbin.
"I'm willing to see more deficit reduction but not out of domestic discretionary spending,” he declared earlier.
The comments represent a now-familiar bout of line-drawing on behalf of Senate Democrats. Whether it is followed by similar resolve when it comes time to cast the votes is an entirely different question. At the very least, there is the option for lawmakers to use the additional $6 billion in cuts proposed by the White House earlier this week (which constitute part of the $10 billion in cuts Democrats have offered) to extend negotiations over a long-term funding resolution for three or more weeks.
The point in kicking the can further down the road, however, is not entirely clear. Neither party says it’s willing to budge from its current position. While Durbin said $10 billion was the limit, his counterpart on the Fox News panel, GOP Rep. Jeb Hensarling refused to say whether the House GOP would accept budget cuts of less than $61 billion. (If you compare the cuts to the spending levels proposed in President Obama’s FY 2011 budget proposals -- which were never enacted –- those numbers are $50 billion and $100 billion respectively).
On "Meet the Press" on Sunday, White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley mustered up good spirits on the impending stand-off, saying he was "optimistic" there would not be a government shutdown.