On July 17, in a private meeting between House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Boehner "pressured" Reid to agree to a short-term deal that would keep the government funded at current, sequester-level spending.
According to aides who were present at the meeting, Reid was reluctant — he knew his members wouldn't be happy with a $70 billion cut from the Senate budget. But he went along with the plan because it came with a pledge from Boehner — he would not put any language into the continuing resolution that defunded the Affordable Care Act.
Almost three months later, Boehner's apparent reversal on that position — inserting Obamacare language into the House's original version of the CR — and his statement Sunday that he can't pass a "clean" CR through the House led a Reid spokesman to say Monday morning that Boehner has a "credibility problem."
“Speaker Boehner has a credibility problem," Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson said in a statement that should serve as a preview of what's to come this week.
"From refusing to let the House vote on a bill that was his idea in the first place, to decrying health-care subsidies for members of Congress and staff that he worked for months to preserve, to stating that the House doesn't have the votes to pass a clean CR at current spending levels, there is now a consistent pattern of Speaker Boehner saying things that fly in the face of the facts or stand at odds with his past actions.
"Americans across the country are suffering because Speaker Boehner refuses to come to grips with reality. Today, Speaker Boehner should stop the games and let the House vote on the Senate's clean CR so that the entire federal government can re-open within twenty-four hours.”
The private tensions between the two congressional leaders have spilled out messily into the public over the past week in the debate over a government shutdown that entered into its seventh full day on Monday.
"Hundreds of thousands of federal workers are furloughed, default is ten days away, and Sen. Reid is giving interviews about his re-election campaign in Nevada in 2016," a senior GOP aide said, referencing a story Monday in Politico.
"What planet are these guys on?”
For Senate Democrats, a major theme this week will be pushing the sense that their boss, Reid, agreed to a concession by not pushing to repeal or replace the sequester cuts in a deal to avert a government shutdown. On Sept. 27, the Senate then passed a so-called "clean" CR that would have kept the government funded through Nov. 15 — keeping most of the House bill's language while stripping out the part that defunded Obamacare.
Michael Steel, a Boehner spokesman, responded to those charges by saying that passing a spending bill at levels required by law — the Budget Control Act, which put the sequester in place — is not a concession.
"The federal government is shut down because Democrats refuse to negotiate, and the debt limit is right around the corner," Steel said.
"A ‘clean’ debt limit increase can’t pass the Senate, let alone the House. It’s time for some Washington Democrat to step up, act like an adult, and start talking about how we reopen the government, provide fairness for the American people under Obamacare, and deal with the drivers of our debt and deficits.”
They'll also push various whip counts that show as many as 21 Republican members of the House who have publicly come out in support for passing a "clean" CR to re-open the government, which they say counters Boehner's assertion Sunday that he does not have the votes in the House for such a measure.
"T he government is currently shut down because Speaker Boehner refuses to let the House vote on a bill that was HIS IDEA," a Senate Democratic aide said.
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