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Congress: The game of chicken begins…

“Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) urged House Republican leaders on Tuesday to stand up to far-right Members and negotiate long-term spending cuts to avoid a government shutdown,” Roll Call reports.

House Speaker John Boehner rejected Reid’s proposal for a 30-day continuing resolution, but he said in a statement posted on his Web site, “If Senator 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.”

“House Republicans and Senate Democrats pregamed a government shutdown Tuesday, shifting their messaging machines into top gear to assign blame to the other side,” The Hill writes. “Each accused the other of refusing to negotiate in good faith to prevent the lights from going out on March 4.”

“Top Democratic operatives are quietly building an aggressive campaign machine to battle huge Republican third-party spending and sway critical Senate races in 2012,” Politico writes. “The strategists, including pros like longtime advisers to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, are putting the finishing touches on a group called the Majority PAC, a “super PAC” that can raise unlimited money to attack or support candidates. It is modeled on the third-party operation, Patriot Majority PAC, which ran bruising TV ads against tea party candidates like Reid’s opponent, Sharron Angle, last year and mocked one of his prospective challengers, Sue Lowden, for suggesting she would be open to bartering chickens for health care.”

“Senator Harry Reid took aim at the world’s oldest profession yesterday, telling state lawmakers the time has come to ‘have an adult conversation’ about Nevada’s legal sex trade if the state hopes to succeed in the 21st century,” AP reports.

“Sen. John Thune’s decision to pass on a 2012 White House bid could set off further jockeying for top Senate Republican leadership positions, which began prematurely this month when Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) announced that he would retire next year,” Roll Call reports.

“Boehner runs the House with a shrug and a smile and, more importantly, has not adopted the top-down approach of his predecessors,” The Hill writes. “The new Speaker, who is more likely to cry than scream, said Friday that his ‘No. 1 goal’ is to ‘have a healthy institution where there is real debate, where there is real action, where members are working together to solve America’s problems.’”

“Some House Republicans fear that a new coalition is forming between Tea Party-backed GOP freshmen and liberal Democrats to slash funding for the Pentagon,” The Hill writes.

Rep. David Wu (D-OR) says he’s getting mental-health treatment and that he behaved erratically, leading to staffers quitting.

Nine members of Congress were in New Zealand hours before the massive earthquake struck.