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Senators Show No Appetite for Shutdown

Updated: 11:52 a.m.

With only four days to work on a House-passed spending bill before current funding expires, Senators appearing on the Sunday morning news shows seemed unwilling to risk a government shutdown, and several promoted a stopgap bill.

Both chambers are in recess until Feb. 28, and the continuing resolution that is currently funding the government expires March 4. The House passed a spending bill for the remainder of fiscal 2011 that would reduce spending by more than $100 billion below President Barack Obama’s 2011 request, but the Senate is expected to significantly alter the measure.

Senate Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) called Sunday for a stopgap measure at current spending levels “for a short time, a couple of weeks … while House and Senate negotiators come up somewhere in the middle” on the bill, which the House passed early Saturday morning.

“I hope we can negotiate somewhere in the middle, that’s obviously what should be done,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” Schumer later added, “We’re going through [the House’s] document right now; it’s a big document with a whole lot of pages.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham said Sunday that “there will probably be a temporary CR.”

“The only reason I’m suggesting we do a temporary CR for a week or two is we just don’t have enough time,” the South Carolina Republican said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

House Democrats have proposed a stopgap measure at current spending levels through March 31, but Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Thursday that he would not move a stopgap that does not include reductions if the chambers fail to reach consensus before March 4.

“Speaker Boehner seems to be on a course that would inevitably lead to a shutdown,” Schumer said Sunday.

House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, however, told CBS’ “Face the Nation” that a shutdown is avoidable.

“We are not going to accept these extremely high levels of spending. We’re not looking for a government shutdown, and I think we’ll have some negotiations with short-term extensions with spending cuts,” the Wisconsin Republican said.
Sen. Tom Coburn asserted on “Fox News Sunday” that a government shutdown is unlikely.

“It’s good for political rhetoric to talk about a government shutdown, but I don’t know anybody that wants that to happen,” the Oklahoma Republican said.

Still, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said on “Fox News Sunday” that she believes it is unlikely that Congress will reach a compromise in the four days the Senate will be in session before the current spending measure expires.

“I think we’re serious about making cuts, I think we’re serious about negotiating,” McCaskill said. “I think we can sit down immediately and begin working on that. We may need to extend slightly the current situation for a few days to get a compromise that works for the American people.”

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin said a government shutdown would represent “an absolute, utter failure.”

“We’ve made it clear from the start that that is the worst outcome,” the Illinois Democrat said, when asked on “Meet the Press” whether a shutdown was imminent.

Sen. Dick Lugar suggested on “State of the Union” that the White House should convene a meeting of House and Senate leaders to discuss the “severity” of a possible government shutdown. “This is a time for presidential leadership,” the Indiana Republican said.

Melanie Starkey contributed to this report.

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