Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid walks on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Alex Brandon / Associated…)
WASHINGTON — Yielding no ground in the budget standoff, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Tuesday said he would propose a measure that would fund the government at current levels for one month, a path that would avoid a government shutdown while the Senate and the Republican-led House negotiate a long-term spending plan.
Reid (D-Nev.) acknowledged that the long-term plan would include budget cuts but said both sides needed more time "to find a responsible path forward that cuts government spending while keeping our communities safe and our economy growing."
It took almost no time for Republicans to reject Reid's proposal. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said last week he would not agree to any spending plan that did not include budget cuts. The House on Saturday passed a bill that eliminated more than $60 billion from the budget in the current fiscal year.
"The House has passed legislation to keep the government running until October while cutting spending," Boehner said in a statement. "If Sen. Reid refuses to bring it to a vote, then the House will pass a short-term bill to keep the government running — one that also cuts spending."
The dueling statements show both sides remain entrenched even as the deadline for reaching a deal moves closer. Funding for the government is set to expire March 4. Both chambers in Congress are out of session this week, leaving only five days for lawmakers to agree to and pass a bill.
Reid said he would bring the temporary measure to the floor next week and said he was instructing his chief of staff to begin working with Boehner's office on a budget plan that could carry through to the end of the fiscal year.
Both sides sought preemptively to put the blame for a shutdown on the other. Reid said Boehner should "take the threat of a government shutdown off the table," and Boehner responded by calling the Democrats' position "not credible."
"Republicans' goal is to cut spending and reduce the size of government, not to shut it down. Sen. Reid and the Democrats who run Washington should stop creating more uncertainty by spreading fears of a government shutdown and start telling the American people what — if anything — they are willing to cut," he said.