Reid, Boehner Exchange Barbs Over Stopgap Measure
The Senate on Wednesday passed a stopgap measure to keep government from shutting down, but Congress' unified effort to beat a Friday deadline belied a tense and personal exchange between House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Before the Senate bill passed with a 91-9 vote, Boehner told the Credit Union National Association Conference that Reid "owes the American people an explanation" for not taking action on the original funding bill that passed the House 11 days ago and cuts $61 billion in federal spending. President Obama had said he would veto the bill if it made it to his desk.
"I'm not sure whether Sen. Reid has a plan to cut spending and keep the government running," Boehner said. "If he does, I think the American people would be interested in seeing it. If he doesn't, I think he owes the American people an explanation."
Reid's spokesman immediately fired back in a statement.
"That's tough talk from someone who is being bossed around by a bunch of freshman," Reid spokesman Jon Summers said, referring to the bloc of 87 new GOP lawmakers who have pushed the speaker for more stringent cuts
"It's surprising that the speaker of the House is unaware that the Senate is voting on a bill to fund the government and cut spending this morning," Summers said before the vote.
The two-week measure cuts $4 billion from the budget to buy more time to negotiate a longer-term spending bill. Obama is expected to sign it before the federal government shuts down at midnight Friday.
Moments after the Senate passed the two-week bill, Obama called on congressional leaders to meet with top administration figures, including Vice President Biden to discuss a longer-term bill for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30.
Meetings could start as soon as Thursday, but senior congressional aides on both sides of the aisle concede that another short-term bill is all but certain, and it could closely resemble the measure passed Wednesday.
According to a senior Senate Democratic leadership aide, about $5 billion is left in the earmark pot so they'll use that. Obama proposed another $24.7 billion in recissions for his 2012 budget and Congress will likely take from that to speed up the process.
In a meeting with reporters, Reid said Senate Democrats will bring proposed cuts to the table, but he would not reveal them to the press.
Difficult negotiations loom between House Republicans, Senate Democrats and the White House over the full-year spending measure. It blends cuts across hundreds of programs -- education, the environment, homeland security and the IRS among them -- with a slew of provisions that attack clean air and clean water regulations, family planning and other initiatives.
Boehner and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell revealed Wednesday they knew very little about the planned talks with the White House.
"We just heard about this suggestion," McConnell said, adding that he has just one question for Senate Democrats.
"Where is the Senate Democratic proposal?" he said. "Where are they on how we fund the government for the balance of the year?"
Rep. Hal Rogers, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said Wednesday that Congress will "have to squeeze every penny we can" out of the budget bill for the rest of the fiscal year.
House Minority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., expressed hope that a long-term agreement would be reached but he said that Tea Party freshmen in the House who want $61 billion in cuts "are going to have to learn it's not just their way or the highway."
Fox News' Trish Turner contributed to this report.