WASHINGTON – With just 9 days left to strike a budget deal or face a government shutdown, Senate Democrats offered House Republicans an additional $10 billion in concessions on spending cuts Wednesday, upping their bid to $30 billion.
The figure almost matches the $32 billion in cuts Republicans initially asked for last month, before tea party pressure compelled them to change their opening bid to the $61 billion in spending reductions the House of Representatives approved last month.
"It's the number the Republicans were for, before they were against it. We got to that number by relying on reality, not ideology," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) on the floor Wednesday, warning Republicans that they'll be blamed for shutting down the government if they cave to tea party demands and refuse to accept the deal.
"Much of the criticism in this process has come from people who aren’t even sitting at the negotiating table," Reid added, ripping the tea party "a radical, unrealistic, unreasonable and unpopular faction."
House Speaker John Boehner's (R-OH) spokesman Michael Steel told Raw Story that there's no deal -- at least until there are specifics. "There is no agreement on a number for spending cuts," Steel said in an e-mail. "Nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to."
Like the White House and Democratic leaders, Boehner is, by all indications, eager to avoid a shutdown. But the growing wisdom is that accepting a budget that's passable by the Senate would risk alienating his tea party House freshmen and possibly incite a GOP revolt.
Tea party groups are poised to rally Thursday outside the U.S. Capitol, demanding that GOP leaders refuse to compromise and instead seek the $100 billion in cuts Republicans promised last year before the election. Neither party has come close to that figure.
Apparently unable to sway their own newcomers, House Republicans have initiated talks with moderate Democrats to try and reach a workable budget deal close to the $30 billion figure, according to the Washington Post.
This article has been updated to include a late response from Speaker Boehner's office.