Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) urged House Republican leaders on Tuesday to stand up to far-right Members and negotiate long-term spending cuts to avoid a government shutdown.
The hard right of the party is “forcing the Speaker to reject any negotiation” on a continuing resolution that the House passed early Saturday morning, Schumer told reporters in an afternoon conference call with Reid. That measure would fund the government from March 4 to Sept. 30, the end of fiscal 2011.
Schumer, who is also chairman of the Democratic Policy and Communications Center, said he believed that Speaker John Boehner does not want the government to shut down as a result of an impasse between the two chambers but that the Ohio Republican is being “pushed around” by freshmen.
Schumer and Reid’s conference call was the latest in a war of words between House Republicans and Senate Democrats, who have both called on each other to “act like adults” about cutting spending.
Senate Democrats are pushing for a spending measure that does not include the dramatic cuts demanded by House Republicans, who in turn say that Democrats don’t understand the seriousness of the nation’s fiscal state.
“House Republicans and some Senate Democrats refuse to believe that we cannot find one penny in spending cuts,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel told Roll Call. “That is Sen. Reid and Sen. Schumer’s position, and it is indefensible.”
Boehner said Tuesday morning that if Reid rejects the House-passed continuing resolution, then another short-term bill that also cuts spending would need to be passed. The House-passed bill would cut spending by more than $100 billion below President Barack Obama’s 2011 budget request.
Reid plans to bring a 30-day continuing resolution to the Senate floor next week to buy time for negotiations and avoid a government shutdown. The Senate and House return from the Presidents Day recess Feb. 28, and the continuing resolution that is currently keeping government agencies funded expires March 4.
Boehner reiterated Tuesday afternoon House GOP leaders’ stance that a stopgap must include spending cuts.
“The House has passed legislation to keep the government running until October while cutting spending. If Senator Reid refuses to bring it to a vote, then the House will pass a short-term bill to keep the government running — one that also cuts spending,” he said.
Reid said the bill that the House passed Saturday would be a non-starter in the Senate, in part because of its many riders, such as amendments that eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood and college grants.
“We believe that the hundreds of riders are strictly the worst kind of politics,” Reid said.
“We want a few weeks to work this out,” he added. “We realize the long-term CR is very important to this county.”