Debate over federal spending levels no longer is driving the federal government toward an expected shutdown, according to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. It’s turned into a deadlock over a raft of conservative policy “riders” that Republicans have insisted be a part of a budget bill, the Nevada Democrat says.
Republicans have been pushing to attach non-budget legislation they favor — such as abolishing funds for Planned Parenthood and curtailing pollution enforcement at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — to whatever measure lawmakers agree to in order to keep the government running beyond Friday.
“This debate used to be about saving money. That is no longer the case,” Reid says in remarks Thursday on the Senate floor. “The Tea Party is trying to push through its extreme social agenda – issues that have nothing to do with funding the government.
“We are very close on the cuts and how we make them. The only things – I repeat, the only things – holding up an agreement are women’s health and clean air,” he adds.
Thus far, the public tug-o-war over forcing the first government shutdown in 15 years has been over spending — Republicans having demanded deeper cuts than what Democrats have wanted.
Reid’s statement Thursday recasts the debate as one over divisive policy matters, which he says has no business as part of a bill to keep federal doors open.
“This is the question: Do they really want to shut down the government because they want to make it harder for a woman to get a cancer screening?” Reid asks. “Do they really want to shut down the government because they don’t want scientists to make sure we can all breathe clean air?
“This is an extreme agenda that has no place in this bill. This is a budget. This is a bill to keep the country running. It’s not a women’s health bill. It’s not an environmental bill,” he adds. “We will not solve in one night disagreements this country has been having for 40 years. That is not realistic. Right now, we have to be realistic. While the Tea Party cheers for a shutdown – and I mean that literally – we will keep trying to reach an agreement. We have been reasonable. We care about the people a shutdown would hurt. We won’t stop working to avoid a shutdown. But we can’t do it alone. We have one day left. This isn’t the time – and we don’t have the time – to fight over the Tea Party’s extreme social agenda.”
Scott Nance is the editor and publisher of the news site The Washington Current. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.