By Russell Berman and Erik Wasson - 03/30/11 04:37 PM EDT
A group of 30 House Republican freshmen on Wednesday joined their party leadership’s attack on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), calling his record on spending “one of failure.”
“Mr. Reid, your record on spending in the Senate is one of failure. You have failed to pass a budget, failed to restrain spending and failed to put our country on sound fiscal footing,” the first-term members, led by Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.), said in the letter delivered Wednesday to Reid. “We do not accept your failure as our own.”
The letter is the latest volley in an escalating war of words over the budget impasse, and it served to demonstrate a measure of unity between Republican leaders and the freshmen who have demanded of them deeper spending cuts.
In a press conference, the freshmen denounced Reid as the leader of a “do-nothing Senate.”
“We in the House are doing the job that the American people sent us to do,” Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.) said. “Democrats want to shift the blame and dodge responsibility.”
“We will not settle for a split-the-baby strategy,” she added.
Echoing Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Crawford said: “We’re not here to shut the government down. We’re here to reform the way the government does business.”
When asked, the freshmen were not necessarily insisting on the full $61 billion in cuts that the House passed in February. The Senate, they said, had sent them nothing on which to negotiate.
"We don’t have anything to consider because they haven’t stepped up and shown any leadership on this issue," Roby said.
Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.) said: "I don’t know anyone who has said ‘my way or the highway.’ We are willing to see a good-faith effort because right now it is really clear to me where the intentions lie from Sen. Reid.”
Asked if cutting $35 billion — about $5 billion more than the current White House offer — is unacceptable, Crawford said, "We can’t address hypotheticals. The fact of the matter is we haven’t had anything to discuss. We can’t negotiate with ourselves."
Crawford also said he was not personally insisting on the inclusion of the contentious policy restrictions, or riders, Republicans added to their initial bill.
"No, I think at this point we need to make sure we responsibly fund the government,” he said.
The lawmakers said they would rally every day in front of the Senate until the upper chamber passed a long-term spending bill, though it was not clear how many would participate. They said a variety of groups would also take part.
House freshmen are to meet with leadership staff later Wednesday for an update on the talks.