Is a Government Shutdown in March on the Table?

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As the House of Representatives continues to debate hundreds of amendments to a budget-cutting bill, there's increasing speculation that disagreements over federal spending could lead to a government shutdown. Republican Senate leaders, however, are suggesting that they'll be able to reach a compromise with President Obama and Democrats in Congress to keep the government up and running.

"The government isn't going to shut down," Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, the Senate Republican Whip, said on Fox News Tuesday night. "Nobody is talking about shutting the government down."

The Continuing Resolution (CR) bill currently on the House floor would keep the government operating past March 4. Some version of the CR is needed to avoid a shutdown since the Democratic-led Congress failed to pass a budget last year. Congress in December passed a stopgap funding bill to keep the government operating through March 4.

However, Republicans are attempting to follow through on their campaign promise to cut tens of billions from the federal budget immediately -- making the CR bill incredibly contentious as lawmakers protest cutting funding for the likes of job training programs and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

The Office of Management and Budget on Tuesday issued a statement indicating that Mr. Obama will veto the CR bill as it stands, saying that the bill "proposes cuts that would sharply undermine core government functions and investments key to economic growth and job creation, and would reduce funding for the Department of Defense to a level that would leave the Department without the resources and flexibility needed to meet vital military requirements."

The House version of the bill cuts about $60 billion from this year's federal budget, but Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell suggested yesterday that Senate Republicans could approve a bill with less drastic cuts.

"We'll see whether the Senate wants to establish different priorities," he said.

Democrats, meanwhile, have been preemptively blaming Republicans for a possible government shutdown.

"We're trying to avoid" a shutdown, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, the Washington Post reports. "But with the Republicans headed in the direction they are, of course it's a possibility, and that's too bad."

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said the same on Tuesday: "If the government shuts down, it will be the Republicans' responsibility."

Republicans seem to be taking the message to heart. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) said yesterday that if Democrats and Republicans can't come to some sort of agreement, Congress will resort to passing temporary funding measures rather than allow for a government shutdown.