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Heat Rises in Fight Over Spending

Bill Clark/Roll Call
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Monday said tea party pressure had kept Speaker John Boehner from the negotiating table on federal spending over the weekend.

For instance, the House leadership’s original $32 billion spending cut plan — which was scuttled in favor of the final $61 billion bill after a conservative backlash — has been widely discussed as a possible middle ground for a compromise. Although some Senate Democrats have rejected that idea, Republicans said they believe that if it had sign-off from leadership, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) could quickly put together enough Democratic and Republican votes to push it through the chamber. “That would pass. It could pass the Senate,” a House Republican aide speculated.

The problem, however, would be the House GOP Conference. “It doesn’t pass the House” unless significant social policy riders are attached to it, the aide predicted. 

According to GOP aides, conservative activists have been pushing hard for Republicans to hold the line, and during last week’s recess, Members saw that pressure firsthand at town halls and other events.

As a result, there may be little incentive for Republicans to cede any ground to Democrats.

“My guess is they’re going to come back ready to fight,” one veteran GOP aide predicted.

With negotiations seemingly stuck, press releases, tweets and partisan speeches filled the void, as both sides tried to blame the other for a potential shutdown.

On Monday, Reid charged that tea party pressure kept Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) from coming to the bargaining table over the weekend.

“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,” the Nevada Democrat said in a statement. “The division between the Tea Party and mainstream Republicans is preventing us from reaching a responsible solution on a long-term budget that will make smart cuts while protecting American jobs, and prevented negotiations from taking place over the weekend even as the clock ticks toward a government shutdown.”

Reid has his own problems with liberals in his caucus unhappy about making additional spending cuts and wary that the White House may be willing to give up too much.  

A GOP aide, however, said talks between the two sides occurred “every day” last week and by phone Monday; the aide maintained that negotiations haven’t broken down.

Even so, Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) ripped Senate Democrats for failing to pass a long-term spending bill through the Senate. 

Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said Democrats are desperately trying to divert attention from their own intraparty divisions and continue to back “essentially” status quo spending levels.

“No agreement will be made or announced until all of the outstanding issues — including funding limitations — are settled,” Steel said. “At this point, the House has done its work by passing a bill, and the Democrats who run Washington have not. No spin can change that fact.”

Cantor, meanwhile, accused Democrats of trying to force both a tax increase and a government shutdown.

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