Policy

Democratic Leaders Push Boehner to Abandon Conservatives on Fiscal Issues

(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Thursday that repeated House GOP efforts to defund or delay Obamacare are "a waste of their time."

Reid met with Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, and the other top congressional leaders for about 45 minutes on Thursday morning to discuss ways to deal with the looming deadlines on government funding and the debt limit. Reid and his Democratic leadership team followed the meeting with a news conference.

"As we all know, the speaker has a problem, how to get the government funded," Reid said. "I told him very directly that all these things they're trying to do on the Obamacare is just a waste of their time."

Reid repeated what he's said many times before: He is sympathetic to Boehner and will provide as much help as he can as Congress tries to pass a continuing resolution to keep the government running, as well as another hike in the debt limit.

Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin was more direct.

"I sometimes sympathize with Speaker Boehner, but the fact of the matter is, if he wants to lead for the good of this nation he has to step beyond the tea party faction in his caucus," the Illinois Democrat said. "If he would call our farm bill on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, it would pass. I believe if he called our immigration bill on the floor of the House of Representatives, it would pass. If he would call on the floor a basic funding level of the Senate budget resolution, it would pass."

Instead, Durbin said, "He has bowed to this willful minority in his own caucus at the expense of this government and of this nation."

"Their direction is a direction to shutting down the government," Reid said of the House Republicans, adding that "obviously" a majority of that group want to see a government shutdown. "Those in touch with reality, and most everyone is in touch with reality, should understand that passing a clean CR is the right thing to do," Reid said.

"If the Republican leaders keep giving in to the tea party and their impossible demands, they must be rooting for a shutdown," Reid said. "There's still a common-sense solution."

After the news conference, Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray of Washington, also a member of the Democratic leadership, succinctly summarized what the Democrats view as Boehner's decision.

"Speaker Boehner has to decide whether the legacy of this Congress is that nothing gets done because he has an extreme right-wing, tea party movement that is controlling him that won't vote yes for anything, or whether his legacy from this Congress is helping to bring people together to solve our problems," Murray said.

Boehner said Thursday that "a million options" are under discussion to avoid another showdown over a government shutdown.

Reid said the Senate would wait for the House to pass a continuing resolution to keep the government funded past Sept. 30, not yet entertaining the idea of trying to move first. He said that in the event a House measure gets sent over containing language delaying or defunding Obamacare, he would ping-pong it back to the House as a "clean" measure without the health care language.