Senate leaders clashed over the Tea Party Thursday morning in anticipation of a boisterous demonstration that conservative activists have planned outside the Capitol later in the day.

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidVirginia was a wave election, but without real change, the tide will turn again Top Lobbyists 2017: Grass roots Boehner confronted Reid after criticism from Senate floor MORE (D-Nev.) said Tea Party activists and affiliated members of Congress threaten to disrupt negotiations over spending levels for the rest of 2011.

“I’m sure it’s not easy trying to negotiate with the Tea Party screaming in their ears,” Reid said on the Senate floor. “We have a lot more work to do.

Senate Democrats, House Republicans and the White House appear to be making progress on a deal to cut spending for the current fiscal year. The two sides are negotiating toward a target of cutting this year's spending by $33 billion, much less than what Tea Party groups have demanded. 

Reid’s comments Thursday were the latest in a running effort by Democratic leaders to portray the Tea Party as having an extreme influence on the GOP. 

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Reid said Tea Party members are pressing for “unreasonable and “unrealistic” spending cuts that will affect middle-class families, students, teachers, nurses and police officers.

“We can’t have what’s going on here with the Tea Party demonstrating, all these very harsh cuts with unrealistic riders, punishing innocent folks just for political ideology,” he said.

Tea Party members will hold a rally at D.C.'s Taft Memorial Park north of the Capitol beginning at noon Thursday. Reps. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), Michele BachmannMichele Marie BachmannBachmann praises Trump as man of faith Tom Petty dies at 66 Bachmann: Muslim immigrants trying to undermine Western civilization MORE (R-Minn.), Steve King (Iowa) and House Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) are scheduled to deliver speeches.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellAlabama election has GOP racing against the clock McConnell PAC demands Moore return its money Klobuchar taking over Franken's sexual assault bill MORE (R-Ky.) defended the Tea Party from Democratic attacks.

In a floor speech, McConnell said the Tea Party has been vilified for “politely asking lawmakers here in Washington to change the way things are done around here.”

“Despite the Democrat leadership’s talking points, these folks are not radicals — they are our next-door neighbors and our friends,” McConnell said. “By and large, they are housewives, professionals, students, parents and grandparents.”

Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerJuan Williams: The politics of impeachment Texas Republicans slam White House over disaster relief request Dem rep: Trump disaster aid request is 'how you let America down again' MORE (D-N.Y.) caused a minor uproar earlier this week when he was overheard by reporters before a conference call instructing colleagues to describe House Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerTrump's pick for Federal Reserve chief is right choice at right time The two-party system is dying — let’s put it out of its misery One year later, neither party can get past last year's election MORE (R-Ohio) as boxed in by Tea Party pressure. He urged them to use the word “extreme” to describe the cuts favored by Tea Party activists.

McConnell fought back against that characterization on Thursday.

“The Democratic leaders in Washington are pretty far outside the mainstream. That’s why we have got one Democratic leader coaching his colleagues to describe any Republican idea as extreme,” said McConnell.

He said Democrats are attempting to “marginalize an entire group of people in this country whose concerns about the growth of the nation's debt, the overreach of the federal government and last year's healthcare bill are about as mainstream as it gets."

Senate Democrats believe House Majority Leader Eric CantorEric CantorIf we want to make immigration great again, let's make it bipartisan Top Lobbyists 2017: Hired Guns GOP Rep. Jeb Hensarling to retire after end of current term MORE (R-Va.) has pressured John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerTrump's pick for Federal Reserve chief is right choice at right time The two-party system is dying — let’s put it out of its misery One year later, neither party can get past last year's election MORE not to accept a compromise on spending cuts with President Obama and Democratic leaders.

"Mitch McConnell has to pay at least some lip service to the Tea Party because he doesn't want Jim DeMint doing to him what Eric Cantor is doing to Boehner. But it's nice to see him finally return to the budget debate after hiding under his bed from the pitchforks for the last few weeks," said a Senate Democratic leadership aide in reference to Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), a founding member of the Tea Party Caucus.

This story was updated at 11:53 a.m.