Updated: 3:38 p.m.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said tea party demands have caused budget talks with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to break down, risking a government shutdown in two weeks.
“I am extremely disappointed that after weeks of productive negotiations with Speaker Boehner, Tea Party Republicans are scrapping all the progress we have made and threatening to shut down the government if they do not get all of their extreme demands,” the Nevada Democrat said in a statement. “The division between the Tea Party and mainstream Republicans is preventing us from reaching a responsible solution on a long-term budget that will make smart cuts while protecting American jobs, and prevented negotiations from taking place over the weekend even as the clock ticks toward a government shutdown.
“Apparently these extremists would rather shut down the government and risk sending our economy back into a recession than work with Democrats or even their own leadership to find a responsible compromise.”
A GOP aide, however, said talks occurred “every day” last week and maintained that negotiations haven’t broken down at all.
Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) have ripped Senate Democrats for failing to pass a long-term spending bill through the Senate. But Democratic aides have said that they had moved significantly in the GOP’s direction in the closed-door talks before they broke down.
Boehner spokesman Michael Steel retorted that Democrats are desperately trying to divert attention from their own divisions and continue to back “essentially” status quo spending levels.
“Discussions with Senate Democrats and the White House over a long-term funding bill are ongoing and will continue, but the facts remain the same. The House passed a bill to fund the government while cutting spending, and — nearly 40 days later — the Senate has not,” Steel said.
Cantor on Monday afternoon accused Democrats of trying to force both a tax increase and a government shutdown.
“It is clear that because Senator Reid refuses to make any spending cuts, he instead plans to force a massive future tax hike on families and small business people. In the scope of our debt crisis, if Senator Reid and Sen. [Charles] Schumer [D-N.Y.] force the government to partially shut down over these sensible spending cuts, Americans will hold them accountable,” Cantor said in the statement.