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Republicans Blame Democrats for possible government shutdown

Newt Gingrich
LAS VEGAS - OCTOBER 21: Newt Gingrich speaks during his 'Jobs Here, Jobs Now' tour at the JW Marriott Las Vegas October 21, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives spoke about bringing back jobs to American citizens and the upcoming mid-term elections. Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

With a possible government shutdown looming, Republicans are pressing Democrats to accept a short-term solution to keep federal operations running for an additional two weeks -- while cutting $4 billion from the budget.

"A government shutdown is not an acceptable or responsible option for Republicans," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia said on a conference call today, as the Associated Press reports.

If Senate Democrats don't accept the two-week plan, "they are then actively engineering a government shutdown," added Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.).

Earlier in the week, Senate Democrats put forward their own temporary plan -- and similarly said the other side would be at fault for causing a government shutdown.

Funding for much of the federal government will expire on March 4 unless Congress passes a new funding resolution. The GOP-led House last week passed a bill that would keep the government operating through the end of the fiscal year, but the measure included $61 billion in budget cuts that Democrats find unacceptable.

With that fateful date looming, comparisons to conditions that led to the 1995 government shutdown are inevitable. Many, like Alice Rivlin -- who served as President Clinton's budget director at the time -- are saying Republicans won't want to relive the experience. Most who experienced it, she told Hotsheet, "do not remember it pleasantly."

"It was public relations disaster for the Gingrich team, and I think Mr. Boehner knows that," Rivlin said.

It turns out, however, that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich doesn't quite remember it that way.

"The Washington establishment believes that the government shutdown of 1995 was a disastrous mistake that accomplished little and cost House Republicans politically," Gingrich wrote in an op-ed in the Washington Post today. "The facts are exactly the opposite."

While Gingrich, who is considering a presidential run, said a government shutodown isn't an ideal situation, he argued it would be "far worse" for House Republicans to go back on their commitment to cutting tens of billions from the budget immediately.

"Work to keep the government open, unless it requires breaking your word to the American people and giving up your principles," he wrote. "Becoming one more promise-breaking, Washington-dominated, sellout group is a much worse fate - politically and ethically - than having the government close for a few days."

Gingrich gave evidence that the shutdown paid off politically for Republicans. In 1996, the GOP lost only a handful of House seats and managed to hold onto its majority -- the first time in history the GOP did so in a year that a Democrat won the White House. He also pointed out that the House GOP subsequently reached a balanced budget deal with Mr. Clinton in 1997.

Gingrich wrote that the GOP's efforts to balance the budget were "distorted" by the media. CBS News Senior Political Producer Rob Hendin this week pointed to at least one piece of evidence that Republicans were blamed for the shutdown: The Chicago Tribune wrote that the shutdown occurred because of "the power of a committed minority - namely the House Republican freshman class - to force its will upon the system."

In response to the House Republican's latest plan to cut $4 billion in two weeks, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), a member of Senate Democratic leadership, said that Republicans and Democrats could come to some kind of compromise, as the AP reports. But he added: "they are threatening to force a shutdown if they don't get everything they want right away. That is reckless and irresponsible."

Cantor reportedly said today that the $4 billion in cuts in the GOP's latest plan will come from eliminating earmarks and speeding up the spending cuts that Mr. Obama has asked for in his 2012 budget.

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