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Democrats, White House Unite at the Cliff

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid makes his way to the Senate floor after a Monday news conference on the potential government shutdown.

“It’s hard to negotiate with someone who doesn’t want to negotiate with you, and that’s the position we’re in right now,” Burgess said.

For Reid and the White House, it’s less about any one provision and more about the precedent that caving would set, knowing full well that a debt ceiling default looms a few weeks away, with a full-year budget negotiation shortly thereafter.

The message from the White House has been twofold and consistent: The president is “eager” to negotiate a budget, but won’t do it under threat of a shutdown or a default.

And Obama, in a statement at the White House late Monday, made it clear that Obamacare would continue forward, no matter what Congress did.

“You can’t shut it down,” he declared.

Democrats, for their part, are pleased for once that the White House hasn’t opened up back-channel negotiations of its own. When that’s happened in the past, Republicans have gotten concessions, sometimes very big ones. When the White House has stuck with Reid, they’ve gotten the House to buckle, Democratic aides said.

“We hope it lasts,” one aide said of the unified position.

Reid, for his part, is sick of negotiating on Republican terms.

“We are not going to negotiate on this,” the Nevada Democrat insisted Monday afternoon.

“Democrats are through negotiating with ourselves,” he added later. “Why they can’t take ‘yes’ for an answer is hard for me to understand.”

Reid said the president’s meetings with Republicans have never borne fruit.

“The president has met with these folks all over town, the White House, took them to dinner at fancy restaurants. He put in writing what he was willing to do — put in writing,” Reid said. “They have yet to issue a sentence after all those meals, not a sentence as to what they’re willing to do, which is nothing. So our negotiation is over with, and I have said that for two weeks.”

Democrats made clear they were just as worried, if not more so, about the debt ceiling fight to follow.

“If we give an inch on the CR, the hard right will say, ‘See they gave in, let’s demand more,’” Sen. Charles E. Schumer told reporters Monday. “We won’t be extorted now. We won’t be extorted two weeks from now. We won’t be extorted in December.”

Republicans kept floating new ideas for concessions they hoped to extract as a condition for keeping the government open.

By midday Monday, Republicans were floating the idea of a one-week CR — a proposal Reid quickly dismissed. Asked about a one-week, a three-day or even a one-day continuing resolution, the former boxer was in fight mode.

“Not a chance,” Reid said.

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