On Monday, the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid urged "mainstream Republicans" to "stand up to the Tea Party and rejoin Democrats at the table to negotiate." Frustrated with the slow pace of progress toward a final budget solution before the deadline on April 8th, the Democratic majority leader blamed internal divisions within the GOP for threatening a government shutdown in the absence of a working budget.
Reid said in a press release:
“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 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."
In a piece pointedly entitled "Never Take Advice from Your Enemies," noted conservative blogger Stacy McCain points out that technically Reid is threatening the shutdown:
"No Republican is 'threatening to shut down the government.' The House of Representatives is controlled by Republicans. The Senate is controlled by Harry Reid and it is he who, by rejecting the House budget plan, is trying to force a shutdown, which he clearly hopes to blame on the GOP."
McCain, who often goes by the moniker "The Other McCain" for obvious reasons, also reminds readers that the current battle over the budget is a result of Nancy Pelosi's failure to pass a budget for Fiscal Year 2011 last year when she had an insuperable majority in the House while her party also controlled the Senate and White House.
Another interesting take on the budget battle ahead comes from Brian Beutler at Talking Points Memo, who reports that part of what's holding back progress on a budget isn't that Republicans have scruples about cuts that are too small, but cuts that are too big in areas that they don't want to see the budget slashed. Beutler says TPM recently learned that Republican leaders are going to reject a White House proposal that would cut $30 billion from current spending because it would include cuts to entitlement programs.
One top Republican aide reportedly said:
"This debate has always been about discretionary spending -- not autopilot 'mandatory' spending or tax hikes."
If this is the case, then perhaps Reid is wrong, and it's not the Tea Party after all who is holding back progress on the budget, but "mainstream Republicans" who don't want to touch entitlement spending. Their "more radical" colleagues from the Tea Party have insisted since day one that all cuts-- including even defense cuts-- should be on the table.