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Ryan Open to Short-Term Spending Bill to Avert Shutdown

Updated: 12:36 p.m.

In the event that Congress is unable to finalize a spending bill for the remainder of fiscal 2011 before the March 4 deadline, Rep. Paul Ryan said Sunday that he would be willing to consider a short-term continuing resolution to avoid a government shutdown.

“I think that’s a very viable possibility: a short-term extension while we work out a compromise,” the Wisconsin Republican said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Speaker John Boehner would only say that a shutdown is not Republicans’ goal when he was asked Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” about whether he would rule out the possibility.

“Our goal here is to reduce spending. Our goal is not to shut down the government. … I would hope that the Senate and the White House heard the same thing I heard from the American people in last November’s election: It’s time to cut spending,” the Ohio Republican said.

House Republicans introduced their fiscal 2011 spending bill Friday night, and the chamber is expected to vote on it this week. The measure would cut discretionary spending by $58 billion compared with fiscal 2010 spending. That amount is $26 billion more in cuts than the House GOP leadership had originally sought, but conservative Members had insisted on the steeper reductions to make good on campaign promises from the 2010 cycle.

“How great is this debate we’re having Congress? A year ago, Congress was debating about how much more spending to increase. Now we’re debating about how much more spending to cut,” said Ryan, who is the chairman of the House Budget Committee.

“I am not worried about Washington cutting too much spending too fast. … What I’m concerned about is endless borrowing, which is going to compromise our economy,” he said earlier in the program.

President Barack Obama is scheduled to release his fiscal 2012 budget request Monday. Ryan said he wanted to reserve judgment until he can review the request but said it sounds “similar [to the] budgets that he’s been giving us the last couple of years.”

“We’ll see the details of this budget tomorrow, but it looks like to me that it’s going to be very small on spending discipline and a lot of new spending so-called investments. … If he’s talking about coming and having new spending, so-called investments, that’s not where we’re going.”

Jacob Lew, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that the president’s request would save $1.1 trillion over the next 10 years.

“We’re beyond the easy, low-hanging fruit. … We’re reducing programs that are very important programs,” he said.

Lew declined to comment on the House Republicans’ fiscal 2011 spending bill. “We all agree we need to reduce spending, and we have to do it in a way that’s consistent with our values and invest in the future,” he said.

Boehner sent Obama a letter Sunday signed by 150 economists arguing that spending cuts now will create a better environment for job creation, the Speaker said. “This is a critically important step if we’re going to end the uncertainty and start to give investors and small-business people the confidence to invest in our economy,” he added.

When pressed on whether Social Security would face significant cuts in fiscal 2012, Lew said the entitlement program is not contributing to short-term debt.
“Social Security is a separate issue,” he said. “We have an obligation to the American people that Social Security is sound for this generation and the next generation. And the president said he wants to work on a bipartisan basis to deal with Social Security.”

Because the House Republicans’ fiscal 2011 plan targets discretionary spending, it does not address Social Security, Ryan said, but entitlements will be considered for fiscal 2012, which begins Oct. 1.

“We do hope and plan on dealing with these issues, but I cannot tell you exactly what we’re going to do and how we’re going to do it,” he said.

The time is not right to begin talking about specific cuts for entitlement programs, Boehner said.

“Most Americans have not been presented with just how big the problem is. And that’s Social Security, it’s Medicare, it’s Medicaid, and I think it’s incumbent on those leaders here in Washington, those of us to go out and help the American people understand how big the problem is,” he said. “Once the American people begin to get their arms around the size of the problem, then, and only then, should we begin to lay out an array of possible conversations.”