Reid: 'Grover Norquist Congress' blocking progress on deficit

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Reid and other Democrats have routinely complained about the pledge Republicans took through Norquist's group, Americans for Tax Reform, not to support proposals that raise taxes. That GOP position prevented a bipartisan agreement to cut the deficit that includes the Democratic proposal to raise new tax revenues.

On a related point, Reid also criticized Republicans for trying to backtrack on the agreement both sides were finally able to reach last year to cut the deficit, which calls for $1.2 trillion in cuts to defense and social programs.

"The House is doing everything they can to walk away from the agreement that we made, the bipartisan vote that we took," Reid said. "They're doing everything that they can.


"They not only reneged on this bipartisan, bicameral agreement to reduce spending, but they reflect fundamentally skewed priorities," he added. "They hand out even more tax breaks to multi-millionaires and shield corporate defense contractors, all at the expense of hardworking, middle-class families, the elderly and those that can least afford it."

Reid was referring to the House Republican plan to replace the so-called "sequester" cuts with cuts to mandatory spending programs, which Republicans say is necessary to avoid deep and disproportionate cuts to defense. The House is expected to take the bill up on Thursday.

Reid said the bill shows Republicans remain aligned with the wealthy, and are looking to cut spending by cutting programs that are relied upon by vulnerable families. He said that while the wealthy have lobbyists, the vulnerable are less able to fight against these cuts.

"So Republicans are going after those who can't fight back: hardworking Americans and struggling families," he said.

Reid also cited a new book written by Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution and Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute that blames Republicans for making it more difficult to reach agreement on these major issues.

"My complaining about the Republicans here being so unreasonable about everything is something that … I'm not a lone wolf crying in the wilderness," Reid said.

On another issue, Reid criticized Republicans for voting against a Democratic proposal to keep student interest rates low, an issue he said he would try to bring up again. Reid repeated his statement that he could agree to allow a vote on a GOP alternative bill, but did not formally schedule any votes, and indicated a deal to go forward might not be close yet.

"So I hope Republicans will come to their senses and work with us toward compromise, but I'm not holding my breath," he said.

The Democratic bill would subject more income from the wealthy to the payroll tax; Republicans oppose that, and support a House plan to cut a healthcare fund to pay for the extension of low interest rates on federally subsidized student loans.