By Erik Wasson - 03/28/11 04:00 PM EDT
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Monday urged Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to ditch members of the Tea Party and cut a deal with Democrats to avert a government shutdown.
Reid insisted it is those GOP internal divisions that are threatening to shut down the government after April 8, in less than two weeks.
Last week Reid put $7.5 billion in discretionary cuts and $3.5 billion in mandatory savings on the table as a counteroffer to the $51 billion in additional cuts the GOP is seeking.
This week Democrats are mulling raising the offer to $20 billion. But Democratic aides insist it is the divided GOP that must make the next move and come back to the negotiating table, not Democrats who must continue to negotiate with themselves and up their offer.
“I am extremely disappointed that after weeks of productive negotiations with Speaker Boehner, Tea Party Republicans are scrapping all the progress we have made and threatening to shut down the government if they do not get all of their extreme demands," Reid said in a statement.
"The division between the Tea Party and mainstream Republicans is preventing us from reaching a responsible solution on a long-term budget that will make smart cuts while protecting American jobs, and prevented negotiations from taking place over the weekend even as the clock ticks toward a government shutdown," he added.
Republicans counter that the Democratic offer is too puny and their unwillingness to allow policy riders — such as those defunding Obama's healthcare reform — make their position a non-starter.
“The Democrats who run Washington are desperately trying to divert attention from their own divisions over cutting spending," Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said. "Discussions with Senate Democrats and the White House over a long-term funding bill are ongoing and will continue, but the facts remain the same. The House passed a bill to fund the government while cutting spending, and – nearly 40 days later – the Senate has not. Senate Democrats’ position is essentially the status quo, and the big-spending Washington status quo just isn’t acceptable to the American people.”
Talks over the CR broke down in a meeting last Tuesday when the GOP insisted that the staring point for the talks be the House-passed spending bill.
The impasse broke into the open on Friday, after Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said there had been progress. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) shot back that Schumer's contention was "far-fetched." Schumer responded, in kind, with a line of attack on the Tea Party.
"After days of positive negotiations, with significant flexibility shown by the Speaker, the House Republican leadership is back to agonizing over whether to give in to right-wing demands that they abandon any compromise on their extreme cuts," Schumer said. "The Speaker knows that when it comes to avoiding a shutdown, his problem is with the Tea Party, not Democrats."
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), ranking member on the House Budget Committee, chimed in Monday, telling ABCNews.com's Top Line that "instead of the Speaker and the Whip whipping" the party, "the Tea Party caucus is whipping the Speaker."
Jordan Fabian contributed.
This post was last updated at 1:18 p.m.