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Federal budget battle: Can Congress avoid a government shutdown?

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“We’re seeing everything from pro-stimulus spending to slash-and-burn [proposals],” says Robert Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition, a fiscal watchdog. “Republicans have some real problems now with a lot of their newly elected members, who are not accepting the fairly traditional boundaries in which these debates were held.”

The newly empowered Republican Study Committee (RSC) – the House GOP’s conservative caucus, whose membership grew to 176 from 115 in the last Congress – wants $100 billion cut from the 2011 budget. Other Republicans, however, are proposing to cut far more, $500 billion or even, symbolically, $1.5 trillion, the estimate for the FY 2011 federal deficit released Wednesday by the Congressional Budget Office.

“I don’t think the president understands what the American people wanted” in the last election, says Rep. Jim Jordan (R) of Ohio, chairman of the RSC, which also called this week for $2.5 trillion in cuts over next 10 years. A five-year freeze is like “someone consuming 10,000 calories a day who decides to lose weight by freezing consumption at that level.”

Freshman Sen. Rand Paul (R) of Kentucky released a plan this week calling for $500 billion in cuts in the current year. On Wednesday, 21 GOP senators introduced a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

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