WASHINGTON, April 3, 2011 -- Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, said he doesn't regret reporters overhearing him telling Democratic colleagues that Republican budget cuts should be painted as "extreme."
Schumer and Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., sparred on just where the Tea Party political movement stood in relationship to the American people, in an exclusive political debate on "This Week."
Schumer stood by the remarks he made when he was apparently unaware his microphone was open to reporters.
"I have no problem with reporters hearing that," Schumer told anchor Christiane Amanpour. "I said a few hours before [the call] on the floor of the Senate. I've said it on this show. The Tea Party is the group standing in the way. They are extreme," he insisted.
"Any group that says you don't cut oil subsidies to companies making billions and billions of dollars – subsidies that were passed when the price of oil was $17 to encourage production, and now the price is over one-hundred [dollars], and at the same time says: cut student aid to help qualified students go to college. Yeah, I believe they're extreme."
Sessions, the ranking member on the Senate Budget Committee, insisted the Tea Party was part of the mainstream of American political culture. "Millions of Americans participate in the tea parties, tens of millions of Americans support and believe what they're saying, and they are right, fundamentally," he said.
"Maybe they don't understand all the realities of Washington politics," Sessions ceded, "but, fundamentally, they know this country is on a path to fiscal disaster," he said, chopping the air with his hand for emphasis.
"This Democratic leadership proposes nothing but to attack the people who are trying to get this country on the right course," Sessions said.
Amanpour asked if he thought there would be a government shutdown.
"I hope not," Sessions said. "I doubt there will be shutdown."
On that conference call earlier in the week, Schumer said, "I always use the word extreme, that is what the caucus instructed me to do the other week -- extreme cuts and all these riders. And, uh, Boehner's in a box. But if he supports the Tea Party there's going to inevitably [be] a shutdown."