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As shutdown threat looms, Reid digs in

From NBC's Ken Strickland
As a deadline looms for lawmakers to reach a bipartisan spending agreement or face a temporary government shutdown, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has offered up the one possible solution that House Speaker John Boehner had already promised to shoot down.

AP

FILE-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev. gestures during a news conference on Capitol Hill last week.

Reid formally announced on Tuesday that he plans to bring a short term spending bill, often called a "continuing resolution" or "CR", to the floor next week to prevent a government shutdown.  But the stop-gap measure he plans to offer is exactly what Congressional Republicans have vowed to reject: a bill that funds the government for 30 days at existing levels, with no further spending cuts.

That’s a proposal that Boehner nixed last week.  “When we say we're going to cut spending -- read my lips -- we're going to cut spending,” he said at a news conference on Thursday. "I am not going to move any kind of short-term CR at current levels.”

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell echoed Boehner’s sentiment in a statement today.

"Washington Democrats can't find a single dime of federal spending to cut, insisting on the status quo, even for a short-term spending bill,” McConnell said. “But keeping bloated spending levels in place and, predictably, proposing even more tax increases, is simply unacceptable."

But Democrats say their bill will cut spending when measured against the budget President Obama submitted--but never enacted--for the 2011 fiscal year. This is the same benchmark Republicans used with laying out their plan late last year to cut $100-billion worth of spending.

"This bill will include the $41 billion in budget cuts that Democrats and Republicans agreed to in December, and will keep the government running for 30 days while both sides can negotiate a common-sense, long-term solution," Reid said in a written statement.

The Senate Majority Leader also assigned his chief of staff to begin negotiations with his counterpart in Boehner's office on a long term spending bill that would fund the government for the rest of this fiscal year, ending in October. 

Last week the House passed a long-term bill that produced $60-billion in spending cuts, but Senate Democrats deemed it dead before arrival.

*** UPDATE ***  In a conference call with reporters, Senate Democratic leaders Reid and Sen. Chuck Schumer further turned up the rhetorical heat on Boehner. Schumer said Boehner is "under intense pressure from the right wing" of his party to force a government shutdown.

"He's being mislead and pushed around by his conservative freshmen who don't remember what happened in [a previous government shutdown in] 1995," Schumer said. "And not only don't fear a government shutdown, but they actually say they welcome one."

But Reid and Schumer didn't directly answer a key question: would they accept anything other than what Senate Democrats are proposing -- a stop-gap measure that funds the government at current levels?

"The answer is we believe there should be a conversation held between the Republicans and the Democrats on how we're going to fund the government for the rest of the year. And, I repeat, we can't do it talking through you folks," Reid. "We want to sit down and talk to them."