Washington (CNN) - Fresh off the debate to avoid a government shutdown, Republican Rep. Jeb Hensarling and Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin expressed cautious optimism following the resolution, while gearing up politically for the debt ceiling drama.
Hensarling, the chairman of the House Republican Conference, explained two ways to view the budget negotiations.
“On the one hand, this is the single largest year-to-year cut in the federal budget, frankly in the history of America in absolute terms… probably for that we all deserve medals, the entire Congress,” the Texas congressman said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday. “Relative to the size of the problem, it is not even a rounding error. In that case we probably all deserve to be tarred and feathered.”
Durbin said Democrats were able to protect important programs in the compromise, like early childhood education and pell grants, while making significant spending cuts.
“At the end of the day we won the battle but we join with Republicans in cutting spending,” Durbin said.
The Illinois senator also said the president played an “important role” in the negations.
“He’s expected to be part of the negotiations. But if it looks like he’s leading the negotiations, he’ll get pushback from Congress,” Durbin told CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley. “So the president was playing an important role here as a facilitator to bring us to an agreement, and it worked.”
But Congress now braces for the next fight over the debt ceiling, an issue Durbin dubbed “another high drama.”
“Instead of risking a government shutdown, we are risking a second recession,” Durbin said. “If we default on America’s debt with this debt ceiling, it will have a dramatic negative impact on America’s economy.”
Congress must reach an agreement before the United States reaches its legal borrowing limit of $14.29 trillion, which Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said will occur no later than May 16th.
Hensarling agreed that the United States should not default on its loans, but put the onus on Obama.
“I continue to agree with 80 percent of what the president says, but I just disagree with 80 percent of what he does,” Hensarling said. “He’s going to have to work with us to cut up the credit cards and put the nation on a fiscally sustainable path.”
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