Updated: 3:06 p.m.
Senate Democratic leaders continued to warn Friday that House Republicans appear willing to risk a government shutdown as the GOP scrambles to cut $100 billion from President Barack Obama’s budget.
Citing a Thursday comment from Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), a senior appropriator, that a shutdown was “a possibility,” Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) urged Republican leaders to take a shutdown off the table -- something they have been unwilling to do.
“We don’t need these threats,” Reid said on a conference call with reporters.
“Time is wasting while House Republicans argue among themselves over how extreme a proposal to send over to the Senate,” Schumer said, noting that a shutdown would take place in three weeks unless Congress acts.
“That seems to be exactly what many Republicans want,” Schumer said.
Republican leaders have repeatedly said that they do not want a government shutdown but have not ruled one out either. They have accused Democrats of ginning up the issue instead of coming up with significant budget cuts of their own to deal with the record $1.5 trillion deficit expected this year.
“If all Democrats are willing to do is freeze the current unsustainable rates, CBO tells us the deficit will climb to $1.5 trillion this year, making it higher than last year,” said Don Stewart, spokesman for Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). “That’s just not going to work.”
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) blasted the pair for using “scare tactics.”
Reid said Democrats could work on Obama’s proposal for a five-year freeze in discretionary spending but not the “extreme” cuts under consideration in the House, which would cut student aid, teachers and police officers and take a “meat ax” approach.
Reid said Senate Democrats would do whatever they could to avoid a shutdown and wouldn’t rule out a short-term continuing resolution to allow more time to negotiate. But Reid made it clear that is not his preference, even using a Republican mantra from the past two years that the business community needs “certainty.”
“You can’t have certainty with these short-term CRs,” Reid said.
In addition to slashing subsidies for oil companies — a staple of Democratic messaging the past two years although the subsidies are backed by oil-state Democrats and most Republicans — Reid also cited a “flying ray gun” being developed by the Pentagon as an example of a wasteful program Democrats would try to cut.
Reid reacted coolly to an expected $3 billion in home energy assistance to the poor in Obama’s fiscal 2012 budget due Monday.