Reid: Dems not trying to break budget caps

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) denied on Sunday that Democrats are trying to reverse the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration as part of a deal to reopen the government.

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Senate Republicans said Sunday that talks to fund the government and raise the debt limit have stalled because of Democratic demands to erase sequestration.

Reid denied the claim in a short speech on the Senate floor.

“There was one conversation on one of the Sunday shows today that said we were trying to break the caps set in the budget act,” he said. “Any talk about breaking the caps is not anything that came from us.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a close ally of Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), told CNN’s “State of the Union” that Democrats want to break the caps set by the 2011 Budget Control Act.

“Now they want a spending bill that increases spending and dramatically will increase the debt,” he said. “It’s a non-starter.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) warned on ABC’s “This Week” that Republicans would block any fiscal deal that raised budget levels above $967 billion for fiscal year 2014.

“If you break the spending caps, you're not get any Republicans in the Senate,” he said.

Reid countered that every Senate Democrat voted for a stopgap funding government until Nov. 15 set at the House GOP funding level.

“We voted to extend the [continuing resolution] until Nov. 15, not a word about breaking the caps,” he said. “We’re happy to go forward with the CR, as we’ve already voted for in this body."

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) offered a plan last week that would fund the government for six months at an annualized rate of $986 billion. But that number would be subject to sequestration and conform to the $967 billion cap implemented by the Budget Control Act.

Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) told Collins on the Saturday floor Saturday that her proposal was unacceptable because it locked in sequestration.

McConnell said in a statement on Sunday that it is time for Democratic leaders to take “yes” for an answer and return to the negotiating table to consider the Collins plan.

“There is a bipartisan plan in place that has the support of Democrat and Republican Senators. It would reopen the government, prevent a default, provide the opportunity for additional budget negotiations around Washington’s long-term debt, and maintain the commitment that Congress made to reduce Washington spending through the Budget Control Act—the law of the land,” McConnell said.

“It does all this while maintaining our commitments to reduce spending, cutting an Obamacare tax and improving anti-fraud provisions in the law. It’s time for Democrat leaders to take ‘yes’ for an answer.”

Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.) suggested to reporters Saturday that a deal could hinge on the budget number.

“It has to get down to this budget number,” he said.

A Senate Democratic leadership aide, however, pushed back against the notion that Reid is trying to lift the budget caps in the private talks with McConnell.

“The suggestion that Democrats insist on breaking the budget caps is false and belied by the facts,” the aide said. “Democrats all voted for the Senate-passed short-term CR at current sequester levels.

“We stand by that bill and would happily accept it or something similar as a way out of the current impasse, and leave the debate over 2014 levels for another time,” the aide added.

This report was originally published at 1:59 p.m. and last updated at 2:23 p.m.