Republicans and Democrats are slogging through negotiations over the federal budget, and with a possible government shutdown looming, lawmakers came out swinging Tuesday in an effort to pin the potential blame on the opposition.
Conservative Republican Paul Broun (R-Ga.) unveiled a website today -- www.countdowntotheshutdown.com -- that features a clock counting down to April 8, the day the federal government will stop operating if Congress does not pass a budget for the rest of the fiscal year.
"If we refuse to keep spending money at the outrageous levels they see fit, President Obama and Senator Reid are going to shut down the government and use it as an opportunity to fault Republican leadership, attempt to regain control of the House, increase their majority in the Senate, and get Obama re-elected," Broun charged in a statement.
So far this year, Congress has kept the government running with a pair of short-term "continuing resolutions" (CRs), which have already cut $10 billion from this year's budget.
Today, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said another short-term spending measure "without long term commitment is unacceptable."
"We've got bigger things to deal with. Time is up here," he said.
Talks are in part stalled because some conservative members of the House refuse to accept any less than the $61 billion in spending cuts that were included in a budget bill passed by the GOP-led House earlier this year. The bill failed in the Senate after Democrats put it up for a vote to prove that such sweeping cuts could not pass in the Democrat-led chamber.
"This is the most serious financial situation I think we've had. The American people get that," Walsh said. "And so if we need a jolt, if we need the government shutdown for a few days for us to really get serious, I think the American people are with that."
Even as Republicans like Broun and Walsh pinned the blame for a possible shutdown on Democrats, the Democratic party was overheard coordinating its own talking points in an effort to blame the stalled negotiations on the Tea Party. Prior to a conference call with reporters today, Sen. Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate, told his fellow Senate Democrats to cast House Majority Leader John Boehner as boxed in by the Tea Party, the New York Times reports.
"I always use the word extreme," said Schumer, who was unaware reporters on the call could hear him. "That is what the caucus instructed me to use this week."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid hit those talking points when talking to reporters in the Capitol building today.
"Are [Republicans] afraid to tell the extreme Tea Party members of their caucus that they're trying to find common ground with Democrats?" he asked. "Does that somehow embarrass them? There are reasonable Republicans in the House who want to see us reach a compromise."
Democrats say they have a "serious proposal" that cuts $70 billion from President Obama's budget request for the current year. The cuts would amount to less in practical terms, though, since the president's budget was never enacted.
Boehner told reporters today that the budget is "not just an agreement on a number -- and it's not just about cutting spending." Republicans have also demanded the inclusion of policy provisions in the bill, such as their measure to defund Planned Parenthood.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters Tuesday that Democrats have "already come halfway and indicated that we're willing to do more." But he added that the White House is maintaining its opposition to the policy provisions Republicans are asking for.
"We have also said that this is a funding bill and a budget bill," he said, "and it's not the place for extraneous ideological or political policy to be addressed."