Harry Reid blames tea party for lack of fiscal cliff deal

WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Tuesday blamed the tea party for both the lack of a deal on the fiscal cliff and the failure of the Senate to ratify a United Nations treaty on the rights of the disabled.

Speaking to reporters, the Senate’s top Democrat suggested that Speaker of the House John Boehner was unable to strike a deal with the White House to avert the fiscal cliff because the tea party members of his caucus would penalize him for it, potentially by taking away his speakership in the next session.

“I sympathize with John Boehner,” Reid said. “The tea party has a firm grip on the Republican Party. … This vocal minority contingent exerts tremendous influence over him and Republicans in the House and in the Senate.”

“Yesterday, Speaker Boehner put forward a plan that for the first time put a revenue number on paper,” Reid went on. “The proposal is not nearly enough to restore fiscal responsibility, and it would hurt middle-class families; yet it’s apparently enough to make the tea party scream bloody murder.”

Boehner has taken quite a bit of flak from the more conservative wing of his party after releasing a proposal to avert the fiscal cliff on Monday. President Barack Obama rejected the proposal, leaving talks stalled. (RELATED — Paul Ryan on fiscal cliff: ‘We’re nowhere. We‘re farther than where we started’)

“I think there’s going to be an attempt to pass a tax increase through the House, in exchange for what?” Kansas Republican Rep. Tim Heulskamp told reporters at the Heritage foundation Tuesday afternoon. “This president doesn’t want to do entitlement reform, doesn’t want to cut spending. … I think it makes very clear to conservatives that you’re about to get run over.”

South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint, a tea party stalwart, condemned Boehner’s proposal on Twitter as “an $800 billion tax hike [that] will destroy jobs and allow politicians in Washington to spend even more.”

Senate Conservatives Fund, a super PAC founded by DeMint but now independent of him, dubbed the proposal “Boehner’s tax hike” and slammed the speaker for being “willing to capitulate on the biggest issue that separates Republicans from Democrats.”