WASHINGTON (AP) - The top Democrat in the Senate said Tuesday that he'll bring legislation to the floor next week to keep the government running at current spending levels for 30 days to avoid a shutdown in March.
The move by Majority Leader Harry Reid is in keeping with longstanding tradition, but it was immediately rejected by GOP leaders who assailed the Nevada Democrat for freezing spending at levels inflated by generous budget increases provided under President Barack Obama.
A short-term bill is required because the House on Saturday passed a $1.2 trillion omnibus spending bill to finance the government through Sept. 30. That measure would slash domestic agency budgets by more than $60 billion over the last seven months of the budget year, which would lead to widespread furloughs of federal workers and dismantle a host of environmental regulations.
It will take weeks or even months to work out differences on the massive spending bill, requiring the stopgap bill.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, rejected Reid's proposal, which was revealed in a politically freighted statement charging that Boehner is maneuvering the government towards a shutdown by insisting on immediate spending cuts.
"Speaker Boehner should stop drawing lines in the sand, and come to the table to find a responsible path forward that cuts government spending while keeping our communities safe and our economy growing," Reid said.
Boehner said, as he did last week, that the House will not pass a stopgap bill, known as a continuing resolution, at existing rates of spending.
"The House will pass a short-term spending bill - one that also cuts spending," Boehner said in a statement. "Senate Democratic leaders are insisting on a status quo that has left us with a mountain of debt."
Unless someone budges, a partial government shutdown could strike on March 5 for the first time since two partial shutdowns in 1995-96, including one that spanned three weeks.