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Conrad Finds House GOP’s Stopgap CR Acceptable

Signaling hope that Congress can avert a government shutdown, Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad said Sunday that House Republicans’ two-week spending proposal is “acceptable” while lawmakers negotiate a longer-term plan.

“It is acceptable to me to have $4 billion in savings in a two-week package, sure,” the North Dakota Democrat said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

The Budget chairman emphasized that negotiations are taking place on the GOP stopgap, which would fund the government from Friday, when the current continuing resolution expires, until March 18. The cuts stem from $2.7 billion in slashed earmarks and $1.2 billion in reductions included in President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2012 budget request.

“I think that’s clearly headed in the right direction. Is that the end of the story? You know, the way this town is, probably not. But I think we’re getting closer,” Conrad said.

He warned that the Republican proposal only focuses on 12 percent of the budget and, even if rolled out all year, would not significantly bring down the deficit. He also highlighted Democratic concerns with some of Obama’s proposed budget cuts.

“For example, highway spending, which I think most everybody says is badly needed in this country, creates American jobs and also makes America more competitive. Does it make sense to be cutting there? Many of us don’t think so,” the North Dakota Democrat said.

In a separate appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Emanuel Cleaver said Obama “absolutely” got it wrong with some of his proposed budget cuts. The CBC has specifically raised concerns about cuts to Community Development Block Grants.

But disagreements between the CBC and Obama should not be interpreted as “disassociation or disaffection,” the Missouri Democrat said.

“We’ve got to disagree with the president when he’s moving in a direction that’s disturbing,” Cleaver said.