From NBC’s Ali Weinberg, Shawna Thomas, and Mark Murray
On a conference call with reporters today, Senate Democrats -- led by New York Sen. Chuck Schumer -- blamed House Speaker John Boehner’s acquiescence to the House Tea Party caucus for holding up negotiations over a final agreement to keep the government operating for the rest of the year.
“We see now that Speaker Boehner is yielding to the extremes to his party -- basically saying he’s not going to negotiate,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), who also was on the call.
The Republican-led House already passed a long-term spending bill that includes $61 billion in cuts for the rest of the fiscal year. The White House and Senate Democrats are expected to release a plan that would cut roughly half that, but Republicans have expressed discontent that they have not yet seen that proposal.
Democrats today said that they were waiting for an indication from Boehner that he would be willing to compromise.
“The ball is in his court,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).
House Republicans fired back at Schumer and the Democratic senators. “Sen. Schumer is not part of the CR negotiations, and he is making up fairy tales trying to derail serious discussions on funding the government and cutting spending, because he believes his party would benefit from a government shutdown," said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel. "At this point, the House has passed a bill to fund the government through the end of the year while cutting spending. The Senate has not -- and Sen. Schumer’s inaccurate rants won’t change that.”
House Democrats also got into the act of blaming the Tea Party for the impasse. In his pen-and-pad briefing today, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer quoted former Speaker Gingrich about the dangers of a "perfectionist caucus." The 2011 version of the "perfectionist caucus" is the Tea Party, he said, backing up the Senate Democratic rhetoric that it's the Tea Party holding up the compromise, not the Democrats.
"When the real problem is not that we haven't given anything. The White House is at $20 billion. The White House has been engaged in these negotiations. [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid is right. The problem is not a disagreement between Democrats and Republicans. The problem is disagreement between Republicans and Republicans. The Tea Party has become more and more strife... The government is not going to work by threats."