Daily Fix, March 31

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Budget battle heats up in DC

*House Republicans are insisting on $60 billion in cuts, Democrats are balking – but so are Senate Republicans who are ready to “move on”. They note that discretionary spending accounts for only 12 percent of the federal budget and cutting a tiny fraction of that does not make a significant impact. Senators feel that Congress needs to address the explosive issue of entitlement reform to achieve meaningful deficit reduction. “There’s a sense that we don’t want to use too much of our political capital on last year’s budget battle,” said a senior Republican senator. “We just introduced our balanced budget amendment and we want to focus on that, the debt limit and the budget for 2012. The Hill

*A small tea party rally in DC insisted that government be shut down rather than compromise on spending cuts (a tiny fraction of the overall budget). Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin told the group “A government shutdown is Congress’s fault.” Politico

*Lawmakers continued to negotiate in private Thursday – but it was clear that this budget impasse will be solved — if it is solved — not because of the familiar Capitol Hill favor-trading but because each party fears being blamed for a shutdown. According to the Washington Post, this fight seems less like a negotiation and more like a dare. Each side is worried about the risks of a shutdown — but betting that the other side is more worried – and the freshmen are digging in their heels. WaPo

*In perhaps related news, tea party negatives are on the rise. Close to 50% surveyed for a new CNN poll say they have an unfavorable view of the tea party. The tea party movement’s unfavorable rating rose 15 points since October among lower-income Americans, compared to only five points among those making more than $50,000. Roughly half of all American households have incomes under $50,000, and half make more than that. According to the polling director, it’s possible that the push for deep cuts in government programs is starting to hit home, although there are undoubtedly other factors as well. CNN

*Meanwhile, Democrats unveiled their strategy earlier this week, albeit somewhat unwittingly. Apparently the plan is to call GOP proposals “extreme” and force a shutdown, since the D’s believe they can win the PR war when a shut-down comes. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said in a recorded conference call: “I always use the word ‘extreme,’ that’s what the caucus instructed me to do the other week.” Mr. Schumer continues to describe Republican proposals, including his favorite soundbites: ” ‘Extreme cuts’ and ‘all these riders’ and ‘Boehner’s in a box, but if he supports the Tea Party there’s going to inevitably be a shutdown.’ Washington Times

*In the meantime, the “kinetic military action” in Libya that some people call a war has cost the American taxpayer $550 million….. Reuters

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