In between budget meetings Tuesday – first at the White House this morning and then on Capitol Hill this afternoon – House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid continued their war of words over how to fund the government and prevent a government shutdown at the end of this week.
“We’re not going to allow the Senate nor the White House to put us in a box where we have to make a choice between two bad options – cutting a bad deal this week in order to keep the government open or allow the government to shut down due to Senate inaction,” Boehner told reporters on the Hill.
The Ohio lawmaker vowed that Republicans will not back down in their push for the controversial policy riders that Democrats have vehemently rejected.
“We will continue to insist that the policy riders passed in HR1 are on the table. It’s just as important for many of our members as the spending cuts themselves,” Boehner said.
As he has in the past, Boehner today rejected statements from Democrats that both parties have agreed on the same total number of cuts.
“They’d like to insist that $33 billion is the top number and want to use smoke and mirrors in order to get there. That is not acceptable to our members and we will not agree to it. And we did not agree to it. We’re going to continue to fight for the largest cuts possible including the policy riders that we passed in HR1.”
Across the Hill, Reid countered that Boehner and other House GOP leaders are being driven by the Tea Party further away from a deal and closer to a shutdown.
“Republicans need to stop clinging to a bill that’s already been defeated here in the Senate,” Reid told reporters at the Ohio Clock this afternoon.
“We’ve thought for several days that we were very close to an agreement, but the meeting at the White House and the negotiations over the weekend really indicated to me and I think most people watching this that the leadership in the House is being guided by the Tea Party,” he said. “They’re saying they won’t agree to anything unless they get 218 Republican votes. We all know that’s a non-starter. We couldn’t pass the last short-term CR if that were the case.”
“We have been willing to compromise at $73 billion. Our problem is we cannot agree to take all that from domestic discretionary spending. That $73 billion was the Republicans’ original proposal, so I guess they were for it before they were against it, but now they’re moving the goalposts again.”
While Boehner refers to $33 billion in cuts and Reid to $73 billion, in reality they are referring to the same number of spending cuts, but just using different baselines: Boehner used current spending levels as his baseline and Reid used President Obama’s never-enacted 2011 budget proposal.
Asked how he felt about the negotiations now, Reid replied that he was “not optimistic”.
“I think that the Tea Party is driving what goes on in the House of Representatives,” he said. “And we cannot do what they want done.”
On the issue of the riders, Reid said, “It seems that every step we take it’s something just to poke us in the eye. They’re not to trying to arrive at the finish line. It appears that they’re going to do everything they can to satisfy the Tea Party.”
“There’s only so much that we can do. We have bent over backwards to try to be fair and reasonable and when you have one party that can’t be fair and reasonable it makes it a really hard push.”
Boehner and Reid are set to meet at 4p.m. Tuesday on Capitol Hill to try to negotiate a budget deal.