On Tuesday, House Republicans announced plans to push another proposal to end the partial government shutdown and temporarily lift the debt ceiling. Even before details of the new proposal were finalized, the White House and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid summarily rejected any House action. Although he didn’t know specifically what the House was proposing, Reid took to the Senate floor to accuse Republicans of acting “out of spite.”
The White House released a statement, saying that the latest House proposal amounts to a “ransom.” “The President has said repeatedly that Members of Congress don’t get to demand ransom for fulfilling their basic responsibilities to pass a budget and pay the nation’s bills,” WH spokeswoman Amy Brundage said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the latest proposal from House Republicans does just that in a partisan attempt to appease a small group of Tea Party Republicans who forced the government shutdown in the first place.”
According to sources on the Hill, the House proposal is expected to mirror the deal being negotiated in the Senate, funding the government through January 15 and lifting the debt ceiling until early February. The House proposal is also likely to delaying the medical-devices tax, which Obama said he was open to on Friday. Reid has even called the tax “stupid.” The plan would also prohibit subsidies to members of Congress to purchase health insurance. Congressional staff would retain the subsidies.
In terms of “ransom,” that is a very weak list of demands. Earlier this year, 79 Senators, including a majority of Democrats, voted to repeal the medical-devices tax. Congressional subsidies to buy health insurance seem an odd issue for Obama and the Democrats to choose to fight.
More than specific provisions or language, Obama and Reid reject the idea that the House would even have a voice in the final negotiations. In the days leading up to the government shutdown, Reid even bragged publicly that he hadn’t spoken with House Speaker John Boehner. Obama didn’t even meet with Congressional leaders or Republicans until after the partial government shutdown had begun.
On the Senate floor Tuesday, Reid threw another temper tantrum. His position has never changed since the fiscal showdown began. He wants a debt hike with no corresponding spending cuts or reforms. He wants government funding at spending levels higher than mandated by the Budget Control Act. Reid also wants no other policy riders or reforms in the funding measure.
Reid and Obama have said they are willing to negotiate. You just have to agree to all of their demands first.