Shutdown Showdown: Boehner & Reid Spin Spending Debate

By John R Parkinson

Mar 29, 2011 6:56pm

ABC News’ Matthew Jaffe and John R. Parkinson report:

A breakthrough in the budget debate? Speaker of the House John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid can finally agree on at least one thing: they cannot negotiate a long-term deal to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year without the other’s participation.

There’s just one problem: neither party leader seems very eager to negotiate with the other one either.

“We're not going to negotiate with ourselves.  And, you know, today the Democrats got their marching orders about how to try to depict us,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said. “We've done our work.  Instead of them issuing marching orders, maybe what they should do is get to work and actually pass a plan.” 

Earlier Tuesday, Reid said Democrats increased the level of spending cuts in their latest offer to Republicans, only for the GOP to bail on the negotiations. 

“Our latest proposal is at $70 billion. That's $6 billion away from the proposal of the Republicans, which was $76 billion. These numbers are clearly in the same ballpark, yet Republicans have stopped walking. In fact, they're walking in the other direction,” Reid, D-Nevada, said Tuesday afternoon. “Republicans need to decide which is worse: angering their Tea Party base or shutting down the government and threatening our fragile economy even more. The recovery right now is fragile. A shut down would make it really bad. I can only speak for my Democrats when I say we're ready to find common ground, but we can't negotiate with ourselves and that's what we've been required to do the last few days.”

Since Senate Democrats have not passed a spending bill to counter the GOP’s House-passed H.R. 1, Boehner has pressed Reid to bring forward legislation that would demonstrate the support of the Senate.

“In these 38 days, the Senate has failed to act on any plan that would fund the government through September 30th,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said. “Listen, [Democrats] created this mess because they failed to do a budget. They failed to do appropriation bills.  And it's time for the Senate to move a bill so that we can sit down and begin the negotiations.”

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said House Republicans have continued to put forward a plan to cut spending, and “the American people don't understand why it seems that Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer and the rest feel that it's important to defend every dollar and cent of federal spending.”

“They've got to lay out a plan as to how they're going to sustain these type of deficit and the debt.  You either cut spending or you raise taxes,” Cantor, R-Va., said. “Where is Harry Reid's plan to raise taxes?  How are the people going to suffer?  How are they — how are they going to deal with the increased costs or higher taxes?” 

Democratic sources said Reid’s latest offer – including nearly $20 billion more in cuts than the previous offer – was retracted when it appeared that Boehner would reject the proposal due to Tea Party opposition, a claim that Republicans have refuted

Reid spokesman Jon Summers later said that if Republicans want to avert a government shutdown, then they should come back to the negotiating table, rather than ignore the Democrats’ new proposal.

“If Republicans are truly interested in forging a bipartisan agreement that avoids a government shutdown, they should come back to the negotiating table and look at what’s in the proposal,” Summers said. 

If both sides are unable to reach an agreement before the April 9 deadline, Boehner would not rule out the possibly of yet another short-term CR. 

“I'm not going to put any options on the table or take any options off the table,” Boehner said. “Our goal is to cut spending because it's going to lead to a better environment for job creators in America. That's our goal. We're going to continue to pursue our goal.”  

Boehner said the GOP’s point in this fight is that reducing spending will lead to a better environment for business folks around the country and will in turn create jobs. 

“We have a real opportunity to help businesspeople around our country and investors in our country by helping to end some of the uncertainty,” Boehner said. “I used to run a small business.  I understand the uncertainty that surrounds this out-of-control spending and the debt that we have and all of the other activities coming out of this administration.  The uncertainty causes people to sit on their hands. And they're not going to invest in new employees, new equipment and new plants unless they see a clear picture toward fiscal sanity here in Washington.” 

Boehner said that the negotiations are not only over spending cuts, but also on a number of limitations that passed the floor of the House, which Boehner pledged will be included in the final package. 

“There are a lot of numbers that have been discussed and thrown around. The fact is, there is not an agreement on a number,” Boehner added. “Nothing's agreed to until everything's agreed to.”

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