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Updated: 6:42 p.m.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wasted no time today in ramping up the partisan rhetoric over the failure of bipartisan deficit reduction talks, moving quickly to blame each other for the collapse.
In a remarkably partisan statement, Reid lashed out at Republicans.
“I am disappointed that Republicans never found the courage to ignore Tea Party extremists and millionaire lobbyists like Grover Norquist,” the Nevada Democrat said while attempting to cast super committee Democrats as reasonable.
“For the good of our country, Democrats were prepared to strike a grand bargain that would make painful cuts while asking millionaires to pay their fair share, and we put our willingness on paper. But Republicans never came close to meeting us halfway,” he said.
Likewise, McConnell laid the blame entirely on Democrats while trying to paint Republicans as defenders of small businesses and the elderly.
“While Democrats insisted on a trillion-dollar tax hike and hundreds of billions of dollars in new stimulus spending, Republicans focused on pro-growth tax reform, protecting Medicare and Medicaid, and reducing Washington spending,” the Kentucky Republican said.
“In the end, an agreement proved impossible not because Republicans were unwilling to compromise, but because Democrats would not accept any proposal that did not expand the size and scope of government or punish job creators,” he added.
While less partisan than her Senate counterpart, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also took shots at Republicans, saying in a statement, “By rejecting a balanced approach, Republicans chose to keep their pledge to Grover Norquist to protect the wealthiest one percent at all costs.”
In sharp contrast, Speaker John Boehner took a remarkably measured and far less partisan approach to the failure of the super committee. In his statement, the Ohio Republican sought to look to the future.
“While I am disappointed, the House will forge ahead with the commitments we have made to reducing government spending and removing barriers standing in the way of private-sector job creation,” he said. “Doing otherwise is not an option. ... I am confident the work done by this committee will play a role in the solution we must eventually find as a nation.”
“I commend both of the panel’s leaders, Jeb Hensarling and Patty Murray, for the dignified and statesmanlike manner in which the committee carried out its difficult negotiations,” Boehner said in the statement.
Both Boehner and McConnell appeared to back the sequester mechanism that was created in the debt ceiling deal should the super committee fail. That could put them at odds with large parts of their party, which have insisted on changes to protect defense spending.
“The good news is that even without an agreement, $1.2 trillion will still be cut from the deficit,” McConnell said in his statement. “Now it falls on the President to ensure that the defense cuts he insisted upon do not undermine national security.”
However, McConnell aides said tonight that he does not believe the cuts to defense spending should be made because of dire predictions by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.