WASHINGTON – Reinvigorated partisan bickering over broken-down budget negotiations Monday suggested that Democratic and Republican leaders are bracing for the prospect of a government shutdown, which would occur if the two sides fail to reach a deal by the April 8 deadline.
In dueling statements, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) each sought to blame the other for the apparent stalemate over a budget to keep the government running through September 30.
“The infighting between the Tea Party and the rest of the Republican Party – including the Republican leadership in Congress – is keeping our negotiating partner from the negotiating table,” Reid said, arguing that the size and scope of the GOP’s proposed cuts would hurt job growth.
“Once the Republicans settle their own internal disagreements and decide what they stand for, we’ll get this done. Until that happens, the country waits, watches and worries.”
Cantor fired back, accusing Reid of lacking a serious approach to tackling the budget deficit, and predicting that the public will blame Democrats if the government shuts down.
“Senator Reid failed to pass a budget last year and once again is abandoning his responsibility to offer a credible plan to cut spending and fund the government for the rest of the year,” Cantor said. “In the scope of our debt crisis, if Senator Reid and Senator Schumer force the government to partially shut down over these sensible spending cuts, Americans will hold them accountable.”
The White House and leaders of both parties have shown flexibility in the negotiations, eager to avert a shutdown, but the 87 tea party House freshmen have threatened to scuttle any deal if spending cuts don’t meet their demands.
Congress has been funding the government in several-week increments to buy time for a broader deal, but both sides seem to have run out of patience for another stop-gap measure.