Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Tuesday he was "blindsided" by news that House Republicans were moving forward on their own debt limit bill and "disappointed" in Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, for doing so.
Reid said on the floor that the new House GOP plan — which includes a number of Obamacare-related provisions and omits instructions for a budget conference — is "unproductive" and "a waste of time," suggesting its only purpose was to cater to tea party conservatives and preserve Boehner's speakership.
"I know I speak for many of us who have been working in good faith when I say that we felt blindsided by the news from the House, but this isn't the first time. Extremist Republicans in the House of Representatives are attempting to torpedo the Senate's bipartisan progress with a will that can't pass the Senate ... and won't pass the Senate," Reid said. "I am very disappointed with John Boehner, who would once again try to preserve his role at the expense of the country. I have worked hard to rise above partisanship, to find common ground in the Senate."
Reid singled out a provision in the Senate-brokered bill to require a budget conference to produce a framework before Christmas. He called that a sign that senators are serious about tackling the larger fiscal issues that members of the House are not.
House Republicans had demanded a conference on a short-term continuing resolution as part of their post-shutdown strategy, but 15 days into a shutdown and two days before a default deadline, they apparently have little appetite for a larger bipartisan, bicameral negotiating group.
"For weeks, Republicans have claimed they want to negotiate, but their legislation completely ignores the need to work together to craft a budget and put our country on a fiscally sustainable path," Reid said.
Reid's comments were in line with sharp criticism from the White House, which released a strongly worded statement moments before Reid took the floor.
“The President has said repeatedly that Members of Congress don’t get to demand ransom for fulfilling their basic responsibilities to pass a budget and pay the nation’s bills. Unfortunately, the latest proposal from House Republicans does just that in a partisan attempt to appease a small group of Tea Party Republicans who forced the government shutdown in the first place," said White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage. "Democrats and Republicans in the Senate have been working in a bipartisan, good-faith effort to end the manufactured crises that have already harmed American families and business owners. With only a couple days remaining until the United States exhausts its borrowing authority, it’s time for the House to do the same.”
There is one silver lining to the House bill, if Boehner can pass it: It would come over to the Senate requiring one fewer procedural vote, expediting a process that already is pushing to the limit of the Treasury's deadline in a chamber where members and aides fear a single senator (such Ted Cruz, R-Texas) could block a time agreement.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, told CQ Roll Call on Monday that he had not yet made a decision on whether he would block such a move by leaders, thereby forcing the Senate to eat hours of clock as time ticks away.