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Fiscal year 2011 budget tussle continues

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Jeremy Hobson: The President will meet with the House Speaker and the Senate Majority Leader at the White House later this morning to try and avoid a government shutdown later this week. They’re looking for $8- to $10 billion more in cuts from what are called “mandatory spending programs.”

Our Washington Bureau Chief John Dimsdale explains.

John Dimsdale: So far, budget cutters have concentrated on programs that Congress funds year to year. That includes air traffic control, foreign aid and food inspections. Now negotiators are looking at a bigger part of the government, programs where the number of eligible people or projects triggers the spending automatically. Social Security and Medicare are the big ones, although they’re not part of this year’s budget talks. The ones that are? Highway projects that go to private contractors and farm subsidies.

Budget analyst Stanley Collender says the broader focus helps spread the pain.

Stanley Collender: It means that it’s not just typical Democratic constituencies that would get hit. That is poor, the elderly, those types of things. It could broaden it out so it includes business, it includes more middle- to upper-income folks. It would include farmers in typically Republican states.

By cutting programs where spending is on autopilot, Democrats are trying to shield some safety net programs on the chopping block, like low-income home heating assistance.

In Washington, I’m John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

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