Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said today he’s seeing “gyrations I’ve never seen before” from House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on fiscal cliff negotiations.
“Until Republicans take up our bill in the House, the one that’s passed here, there’s nothing to discuss. We are not taking up any of the things that they’re working on over there now,” Reid said obstinately at a press conference with other Democratic leaders today on the Hill.
“It’s very, very, very unfortunate the Republicans have wasted an entire week on a number of pointless political stunts, and that’s what they’ve been. It’s obvious that the speaker, working with his Republican team, can’t get enough votes together to pass much of anything,” Reid added.
Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) likened the talks not to gyrations, but to a famous cliff-sailing scene.
“Remember the closing scene in ‘Thelma and Louise’? Rather than face the reality of what lies ahead they hit the gas. That’s what we’re hearing from Speaker Boehner now, hit the gas and go over the cliff,” Durbin said. “It’s time for the speaker to wake up to the simple reality that to deal with this national crisis we have to deal with it on a bipartisan basis. It means that he has to sit down with the president and work out an agreement, not with the Tea Party Republicans in his caucus. This is a waste of time.”
However, the Plan B floated by Boehner — similar to a past proposal by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to extend the Bush tax rates up to $1 million earners — is compromise legislation that has caused anger toward the Speaker from some on the right.
“We’ve sent them what we want them to pass. They can take that up. But they’re not gonna get anything back,” Schumer said today. “Because, basically, what Plan B is not taken seriously by anyone in America except a small number in the Republican caucus.”
“Why in God’s name does the speaker spend his time trying to win the hardest people over to a plan that’s never going to pass? Why, instead, doesn’t he tell the hardliners they don’t have to vote for this. ‘I’m going to come up with a grand bargain with the president; we’ll have Democratic votes and mainstream Republican votes and we’ll pass it,’” Schumer continued. “It’s totally befuddling. He’s making the most conservative members of his caucus vote for a bill they hate, and it’s not even the final deal, it’s simply a tactic. He’s making them walk the plank for the sake of a chess move.”
“The Speaker should take heart, if he does the right thing, he’s gonna be reelected, and he’ll be reelected overwhelmingly.”
When asked what makes Boehner’s proposal different from his own million-dollar compromise, Schumer responded, “Well, that was two years ago. The Republicans should have taken up the offer then. You can’t turn the clock back two years.”
“The politics are different. The president wanted $250,000, campaigned on $250,000 and won on $250,000. The American people overwhelmingly support $250,000. So that’s where we’re at,” he added.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) quipped that when she heard Boehner was pushing Plan B legislation, “I thought, ‘Finally, they’ve made progress on a really important women’s health issue that I’ve been working on’ — but that was not the case.”
Over on the House side, Boehner simply said “after today, Senate Democrats and the White House are going to have to act” on his plan.
“President Obama and Senate Democrats haven’t done much of anything. Their plan B is just to slow-walk us over the fiscal cliff,” Boehner said at a news conference. “And for weeks, the White House said that if I moved on rates that they would make substantial concessions on spending cuts and entitlement reforms. I did my part. They’ve done nothing.”
The Senate will have a memorial service for Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) tomorrow, and many will fly out to the islands for his funeral on Sunday. The upper chamber will be back at work Dec. 27.
“Don’t blame it on Daniel Inouye passing,” Reid said of the latest fiscal cliff slowdown. “[Boehner] has wandered around over there in some kind of a befuddlement now for a week.”
“We’re saying until you pass the $250,000, we are not going to do anything,” he said. “We have — we are not going to do anything to protect the Tea Party-driven leadership in the House. It’s not what the American people want.”