Under fire on deficits, Dems try budget alternative 

House Democrats have been unable to agree on a federal budget but are still trying to offer some promise of fiscal restraint to voters worried about the nation's growing deficit with a proposed slate of short-term cuts.

"We are going to try to have some cuts in this," a top Democratic aide said Monday, confirming the new plan.

For the first time since 1974, the House has failed to vote on a budget resolution, a five-year plan that establishes a guideline for spending and taxing.

Republicans are criticizing the short-term budget plan, saying it ignores future deficits.

"Given how they're burying their heads in the sand to hide from America's problems, Washington Democrats might want to consider replacing their traditional donkey mascot with an ostrich," said Michael Steel, spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.

With Democrats in charge of Congress, the various factions in the party have been unable to agree on what a long-term budget plan should look like. The fiscally conservative Democratic House Blue Dog Coalition wants to curb federal spending in order to reduce the nation's $1.3 trillion deficit. The 54-member group is calling for a 2 percent cut in spending in each of the next three years, a proposal that the even larger coalition of liberal Democrats will not support.

"It's an election year and the problem is, to keep the economic recovery going, you have to keep spending money," said another Democratic aide close to the budget process. "You can't really cut back and keep the economy going but when you do that, you keep running up the deficit and people don't like to vote for budgets with big deficits."

There is no guarantee Democrats will find enough support to pass the short-term measure, which they are calling a "budget enforcement resolution" with cuts deeper than what the Blue Dogs are asking for.

The Senate has not passed a budget resolution, either, though the budget committee cleared a proposal that would cut spending by $1 billion in 2011.

Democratic infighting over spending has created a stalemate on several bills, including a $58 billion measure to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. House Democratic leaders are hoping to attach their budget enforcement resolution to this bill, but the bill itself is in trouble because Democrats can't agree on which domestic spending to attach to it, and they are facing opposition from liberals to the war spending itself.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., wants to add $23 billion to prevent nationwide teacher layoffs, but other Democrats are balking at the additional cost.

In the Senate, Republicans and Democrats skittish about deficit spending have refused to pass a bill that would extend unemployment benefits and tax breaks for small businesses as well as give federal aid to states.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., whose state has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation, is eager to send more federal money to Nevada and he blames Republicans for failing to provide the 60th vote needed to pass the bill.

"Every day we don't act, those families in Nevada and across the nation continue to suffer unnecessary pain," Reid said Monday.


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