Reid slams Boehner's debt speech

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday blasted House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) for threatening not to raise the debt ceiling next year unless greater spending cuts are enacted.

“The brinksmanship we are seeing from Republicans today reminds us of days prior,” he told reporters. “Instead of meeting us in the middle on the problems facing the country, Republicans are already digging these trenches that they are in and saying they are not going to move.”

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Reid said that Boehner risks turning the GOP into a rump party of extremists by making such statements.

“It’s pretty clear to me that the Tea Party direction of the Republican Party is driving them over a cliff. And I would suggest that Speaker Boehner look at the long term, which is what will the Republican Party look like in the future,” he said.

“If he continues this, it is going to be a Republican Party that Republicans don’t like," Reid said. "They don’t like it now. The only ones who like the party are the Republicans in Congress, no one else likes it, including Republicans around the country.”

Just as Boehner’s Tuesday remarks are a revival of his position during last July’s debt-ceiling standoff, Reid’s remarks echo his attacks on the House GOP as captive of Tea Party extremists.

“We all remember the very, very ugly process of this confrontational approach that we had during the last period of time when we were trying to get a budget,” he said.

He warned that a similar confrontation could damage the economy.

“There are real-life consequences for middle-class families as economic confidence dropped in the months leading up to the deadline,” he said.

Although Reid criticized Boehner for making ultimatums, he also reiterated the hard Democratic position that tax increases must be part of any deficit bargain and that social programs must be protected. 

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“The fact is that any agreement to avoid the fiscal cliff facing us at the end of the year must not gut programs for the poor and middle class like Medicare, Social Security and education,” he said. “It must be balanced with policies that ask millionaires that help a little bit and do their fair share.”

Reid claimed that Democrats are flexible on spending cuts and have “a track record of supporting smart, targeted spending cuts,” whereas the GOP cannot accept any tax increases to balance them out.

“The American people have had enough of this brinksmanship. They want us to get things done,” Reid said.

In contrast, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he supported Boehner’s move.

“I think the request of the president to ask us to raise the debt ceiling ought to generate significant response to deal with the problem of deficit and debt,” he said.

Despite the friction on Tuesday, Reid said he has hope that some fiscal issues can be resolved in the lame-duck session.

“I would envision, I know this sounds somewhat heretical, I would hope that we can work together as Democrats and Republicans to do some long-term fixes, not a month at a time, like with FAA extension, which we did two different times before we finally passed it,” he said.