Senate OKs Short-Term Budget Bill, Buys Time For Talks About Deeper Cuts

In the background, a number of issues continue to be in play. These include the continuing tensions surrounding efforts by some GOP lawmakers to defund Planned Parenthood and to repeal the health law's mandatory spending provisions. And, on a related note, issues related to reforming entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid continue to draw attention.

The Associated Press:  Senate Sends 3-Week Funding Bill Cutting $6B To Obama
Congress approved an additional $6 billion in spending cuts Thursday, passing legislation to keep the government running through April 8 and allow time for talks on a larger package of reductions demanded by Republicans. … Any attempt to cut significantly into the red ink would have to expand beyond the domestic programs covered by the bill that passed Thursday, and include benefit programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security (3/17).

The Hill: Reid: Rider On Planned Parenthood Won't Be Included In Budget Deal
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Thursday drew a firm line with Republicans, declaring that a controversial Planned Parenthood measure will not be included in any deal on the budget (Bolton, 3/17).

Politico Pro: Harkin Defends Mandatory Spending
Sen. Tom Harkin says he's open to changes in the health care law if problems come up — but the money automatically provided by the law isn't one of them. The roughly $105 billion in mandatory appropriations for the law, the Iowa Democrat said, is no different from the farm subsidies that run from year to year on federal funds that are also provided automatically. Some House Republicans — including his Iowa colleague, Rep. Steve King — have said the mandatory spending should be repealed because it's hard for Congress to stop and has never been used on this scale (Nather, 3/18).

The Fiscal Times: Ryan Says Congress Will Dodge Entitlement Cuts
Congress is unlikely to tackle major changes in Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security before the 2012 election because of few signs that Republicans and Democrats are willing to assume the political risk, according to House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis. ... Ryan said most of the fiscal gap, or unfunded promises, are the health care entitlements. He estimates they will reach $88.6 trillion in 2011 (DePaul, 3/17).

The Hill: In GOP Plan For Entitlement Reform, Ryan Knows He's Handing Dems A Weapon
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) acknowledged Thursday that the GOP will be handing Democrats a weapon when Republicans come out with a budget next month that proposes to pare back entitlement spending. "Is this a political weapon we are handing our adversaries? Of course it is," Ryan said Thursday. "I think everybody knows that we are walking into I guess what you would call a political trap that arguably we are setting for ourselves ... but we can't wait. This needs leadership("). ... The proposal should shift the debate in Washington from discretionary domestic spending, which has dominated the fight so far, to entitlements that represent a far larger share of federal outlays (Wasson, 3/18). 

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