BITES AT THE APPLE…. As federal policymakers debate a budget for the remainder of the fiscal year, the Republican position is crystal clear: they want $61 billion in cuts, and they’re prepared to shut down the government if they don’t get them. To that end, the House GOP has approved brutal cuts in areas like education, medical research, infrastructure, job training, and national security, all of which would cost the economy hundreds of thousands of jobs.

It’s unlikely a Democratic Senate and Democratic White House will go along with this. But while the process unfolds, let’s not forget a pesky detail: this is the first of several rounds of cuts Republicans intend to push.

Republicans expect other opportunities to force spending cuts this year — party leaders plan to use the 2012 budget resolution and imminent debt-limit vote to do so.

“It’s not like this was our only bite at the apple,” [Republican Rep. Dave Schweikert of Arizona] said after voting to keep the government open last week.

Right. I hope everyone, especially congressional Democrats, haven’t forgotten this. Right now, the Republican message is, “Give us all of the cuts we want, or we’ll shut down the government.” And next month, the Republican message will be, “Give us more cuts we want, or we’ll block the debt limit and destroy the economy on purpose.” And later this year, as the debate over next year’s fiscal budget heats up, the Republican message will again be, “Give us all of the cuts we want, or we’ll shut down the government.”

This is, in other words, a multi-tiered process. Dems are already prepared to give the GOP all kinds of cuts this year — the current White House offer is over $10 billion in cuts — but does the party have a plan for the next round of demands? And the one after that?

If the Democratic goal is to block the $61 billion in cuts, which would likely cut 700,000 American jobs, that’s obviously a worthwhile objective. But if Republicans succeed in reaching their target incrementally — plenty of drastic cuts in March, plenty more in April, plenty more still in the fall — the consequences for the country will be just as severe.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.