Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced Tuesday that he was taking two actions he said are aimed at averting a government shutdown after March 4.
He said he is introducing a bill temporarily extending federal funding for 30 days, to give time for spending talks with the Republican House, and that he has appointed an emissary to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to lead the talks over funding for the rest of the year.
Reid has tapped his chief of staff, David Krone, to begin negotiations with Boehner’s chief of staff Barry Jackson.
Reid's proposal would keep the federal government open while negotiations continue on a final spending bill for FY 2011. Given that the alternative is a government shutdown, Reid's proposal sounds reasonable, right? Wrong, at least if you're a Republican :
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on Tuesday blasted a proposal from Democrats to keep the government running for another 30 days at current spending levels.
Cantor's complaint is that Reid's proposal wouldn't result in immediate cuts. True, but in freezing spending, it does represent a cut from President Obama's budget request, which is the same baseline Republicans use when they claim $100 billion in cuts. But the more important point is that the whole idea of Reid's proposal is to give the House and Senate time to negotiate a final spending bill without shutting down the government.
In rejecting Reid's offer, Cantor is saying Republicans won't sit down at the table with Democrats unless Democrats cave before negotiations begin. That's an absurd position to take. And if Republicans don't show some flexibility—and show it fast—come March 4 they will be responsible for shutting down the federal government.
Updated by Jed Lewison at Tue Feb 22, 2011, 03:44:19 PM
In a conference call just now with Charles Schumer, Reid said:
We cannot afford a shutdown at this critical point in our recovery. It's time for my Republican colleagues to drop theatrics and stop drawing lines in the sand.
Schumer said that Boehner was being "pushed around" by hard-right freshman Republicans and called on Republicans "to stand up to the hard-right of their party" to avoid a government shutdown. "Do not put preconditions on the negotiations," he said.