Alex Brandon/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Speaker John Boehner with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Wednesday, March 2, 2011.
Speaker John Boehner with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Wednesday, March 2, 2011. Alex Brandon/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Congressional Republicans continued to push their top priority of spending cuts Wednesday, essentially taunting Senate Democrats to get in the game.
Senate Democrats, however, refused to be drawn in by the GOP tactics. The Democrats wanted to focus on what they said would be the damage to a still-weak economic recovery if the Republicans got their way.
Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), accompanied by Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) at a news conference, said:
Americans have the right to know where Senate Democrats'
plan to cut spending and fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year is. And so we're waiting for them, and hopefully we'll see something from them soon.
Boehner observed that House Republicans not only passed a stopgap spending bill with $4 billion in cuts that would extend spending for the federal government for two-weeks beyond Friday. They also passed a bigger bill with $61 billion in cuts to fund the federal government until the end of its fiscal year in September, he said.
By contrast, he said, the Democratic-controlled Senate come empty handed to the spending-cut party.
The Republican news conference happened not long after the Senate approved the two-week spending bill in a 91-9 vote. The House passed the bill one day earlier.
Also on Wednesday, President Obama issued a statement saying he had assigned Vice President Biden to lead an administration team including White House Chief of Staff William Daley and Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew to negotiate a spending plan with Congress that would cover the remainder of the fiscal year.
McConnell indicated in the meeting with journalists that the president's invitation was news to him:
We just heard about this suggestion of the people who were supposed to be invited to a discussion on the way in here, so we'll take a look at what they have to say. But obviously, if I were you, I'd be asking Senate Democrats how they feel about commencing such a discussion.
And Boehner questioned what good could come from a White House led meeting if Senate Democrats had no specifics on their proposed spending cuts.
For his part, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said Senate Democrats would have their own spending-cut proposals but that they would wait for the negotiations to present them.
When a reporter asked Reid what he made of the Republican position, Reid said:
I can't imagine anything so shallow. That's what we do. That's what negotiations are all about.
I'm not going to negotiate with you folks here as to what we're
going — we want to do. That's why we need to sit down in a room with the administration, they're represented, and the Republicans both in the House and the Senate, and work something out. So that is foolishness.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) argued the Democrats' case that the Republican spending cuts would result in hundreds of thousands of lost jobs and put the brakes on the recovering economy:
DURBIN: ... I can't understand this Republican approach. They are clearly in recession denial. They refuse to acknowledge 15 million Americans are out of work and things we do here in Washington make a difference. As Senator Reid has said, if we went ahead with their spending bill in the House, 700,000 more people would be on the unemployment rolls across America. Is that what the voters voted for last November? Not at all. The number one priority? Get America back to work. Help businesses create jobs.
The Republicans are in denial. They think that everything they
do is separate and apart from the economy. It isn't. It is part of the economy.