Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) released a statement today blaming disagreements between “mainstream Republicans” and “Tea Party Republicans” for stifling negotiations on a budget deal for the remainder of the fiscal year.
“I am extremely disappointed that after weeks of productive negotiations with Speaker Boehner, Tea Party Republicans are scrapping all the progress we have made and threatening to shut down the government if they do not get all of their extreme demands,” Reid said. “The division between the Tea Party and mainstream Republicans is preventing us from reaching a responsible solution on a long-term budget.”
Reid said this rift within the GOP “prevented negotiations from taking place over the weekend even as the clock ticks toward a government shutdown.”
“Apparently these extremists would rather shut down the government and risk sending our economy back into a recession than work with Democrats or even their own leadership to find a responsible compromise,” Reid said. “For the sake of our economy, it’s time for mainstream Republicans to stand up to the Tea Party and rejoin Democrats at the table to negotiate a responsible solution that cuts spending while protecting jobs.”
On Friday, Republican leaders also indicated that the talks weren’t going well, blaming the Democrats’ insistence on defending the status quo on federal spending. Aides confirm that both sides met all last week, and again today.
UPDATE: Boehner spokesman Michael Steel responds:
The Democrats who run Washington are desperately trying to divert attention from their own divisions over cutting spending. Discussions with Senate Democrats and the White House over a long-term funding bill are ongoing and will continue, but the facts remain the same. The House passed a bill to fund the government while cutting spending, and — nearly 40 days later — the Senate has not. Senate Democrats’ position is essentially the status quo, and the big-spending Washington status quo just isn’t acceptable to the American people.
UPDATE II: Reid reiterated his argument on the Senate floor this afternoon. “On our side of the negotiating table, we’ve made a proposal. That proposal makes significant cuts, but will not hurt our fragile recovery.”
He is presumably referring to a Democratic counteroffer to cut an addition $11 billion — on top of the $10 billion already included in a couple of short-term continuing resolutions. The package reportedly included $7.5 billion in cuts to discretionary spending and $3.5 billion in “savings” in the mandatory portion of the budget. However, Republicans are adamant that, per their “Pledge to America,” spending cuts focus solely on discretionary spending in order to bring current levels in line with 2008 (pre-Obama) levels.
Democrats are also said to be mulling another offer of $20 billion in cuts, which would bring the total number close to House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan’s original request of $32 billion, and roughly half-way to the $61 billion in cuts included in H.R. 1, the House-passed spending bill.
“We readily recognize that in the end, we won’t get everything we want,” Reid said. “That’s true of any fair negotiation. We recognize that sacrifices are the cost of consensus, and we believe they’re worth it.”
“But on the other side, Republicans refuse to negotiate on a final number,” he continued. “That’s because the biggest gap in this negotiation isn’t between Republicans and Democrats – it’s between Republicans and Republicans.”
“The infighting between the Tea Party and the rest of the Republican Party – including the Republican leadership in Congress – is keeping our negotiating partner from the negotiating table. And it’s pretty hard to negotiate without someone else on the other side of the table.”
UPDATE III: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) says in a statement that Democratic leaders in the Senate have “failed to take our fiscal crisis seriously” by refusing to offer a “credible” plan to cut spending — in addition to their failure to pass a budget last year. He points out that even a number of Democrats hold this view (see here, here and here).
“Our federal government borrows nearly forty cents of each dollar it spends, yet Senate Democrats want to keep spending money that we don’t have,” Cantor said. “It is clear that because Senator Reid refuses to make any spending cuts, he instead plans to force a massive future tax hike on families and small business people.”
The Majority Leader concludes by saying that if negotiations fall through and the government shuts down, Democrats will be to blame. “In the scope of our debt crisis, if Senator Reid and Senator Schumer force the government to partially shut down over these sensible spending cuts, Americans will hold them accountable,” he said.
This is yet another example of House GOP leaders ratcheting up their rhetoric about the possibility of a government shutdown ever since this happened.