With three weeks to negotiate a deal on the federal budget, Senate Democratic leaders on Thursday said they are giving House Speaker John Boehner a choice: Either stand by the Tea Party’s demands and shut down the government, or work with Democrats on a compromise.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made clear that the final budget bill would contain no “riders” — add-on amendments that eliminate funding to programs like Planned Parenthood, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and defund the health care law — which a sizable contingency of House Republicans are demanding be included.
“I looked at a list of them yesterday,” Reid said of the Republican rider proposals passed in the House in February. “The answer to those that I focused on was not only no, but hell no. So, we’ll look at some of those that are not ‘no, but hell no’ and see what happens.”
A bloc of 54 House Republicans voted against a short-term funding extension this week that was needed to keep the government running while the parties negotiate a deal for a long-term funding, citing the absence of the riders and defunding of the health care law. It appears increasingly likely that many, if not all, of the 54 Republican defectors could refuse to vote for a long-term deal on the same grounds, which would force GOP leaders to rely on Democrats to get a bill through.
“The Speaker’s going to have to make a choice: He can cater to the Tea Party element and as [Indiana Republican Rep.] Mike Pence has suggested, pick a fight that will inevitably cause a shutdown on April 8th,” said New York Sen. Charles Schumer. “Or he can abandon the Tea Party in these negotiations and force a consensus among more moderate Republicans and a group of Democrats.”
Meanwhile, White House spokesman Jay Carney released a statement Thursday that suggested that President Obama would not sign any bill that included the riders that conservatives within the GOP were demanding.
“We all agree we want to cut spending, which is why we have already met Republicans halfway,” Carney said. “But we will continue to oppose harmful cuts to critical investments in education, innovation, and research and development that we need to grow our economy and create jobs – as well as oppose additions to the bill that have nothing to do with fiscal policy.”
As the clock ticks on the life of what is likely to be the last short-term spending bill that Congress will allow, party leaders will be meeting together behind closed doors to negotiate a final deal. Funding from the new bill, which included $6 billion in cuts, will run out on April 8.