Reid blasts House GOP proposal as 'draconian' and 'unworkable'

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidGOP embraces big stimulus after years of decrying it Five Latinas who could be Biden's running mate Winners and losers from Super Tuesday MORE (D-Nev.) blasted a House Republican proposal to cut $32 billion from 2011 spending levels as “draconian” and “unworkable.”

Reid promised to work hard to avert a government shutdown that he warned would inflict grave harm on the economy.

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Reid told reporters Thursday that he is willing to negotiate with House Republicans over a bill to keep the government funded beyond March 4.

“We are happy to work with Republicans; we recognize that there has to be some long-term financial austerity,” Reid said.

“We’re not burying our heads in the sand; we recognize we need to do some things,” he added.

But he called a proposal by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanWho should be the Democratic vice presidential candidate? The Pelosi administration It's not populism that's killing America's democracy MORE (R-Wis.) to cut this year’s federal budget by $32 billion “unworkable.”

“The chairman of the Budget Committee today, today sent us something even more draconian than we originally anticipated,” said Reid. “So this isn’t some game that people have been playing. The House of Representatives [is] actually sending us some of these unworkable plans.”

Republicans have threatened to block a continuing resolution to fund the government beyond early March, as well as legislation raising the national debt limit unless Democrats agree to significant spending cuts.

Reid warned that threatening a government shutdown or blocking an increase in the national debt limit would be playing “Russian roulette” with the economy.

Reid declined to rule out spending cuts in 2011 but said he wanted to first review a deficit-cutting proposal being negotiated by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.).

Conrad is in talks with GOP Sens. Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoLobbying blitz yields wins for airlines, corporations, banks, unions Stimulus empowers Treasury to rescue airlines with billion in direct assistance White House, Senate reach deal on trillion stimulus package MORE (Idaho) and Tom CoburnThomas (Tom) Allen CoburnThe Hill's Campaign Report: Trump, Biden spar over coronavirus response Senator Tom Coburn's government oversight legacy Remembering Tom Coburn's quiet persistence MORE (Okla.), who sat on President Obama’s fiscal commission.

“Before we talk about any budget-cutting, we have to see what Conrad comes up with,” Reid said after the press conference.

Senate Republicans noted that Reid, Senate Democratic Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSenator Tom Coburn's government oversight legacy Democratic lawmakers demand government stop deporting unaccompanied children Legal immigrants at risk of losing status during coronavirus pandemic MORE (Ill.) and Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerMcConnell launches ad touting role in passing coronavirus relief Joe Biden can't lead the charge from his home in Delaware Texas man arrested for allegedly threatening Democrats over coronavirus bill MORE (D-N.Y.) voted against legislation to increase the debt limit in 2003, 2004 and 2006, when Republicans controlled the Senate and White House.

Republicans have accused Democrats of raising the specter of a government shutdown to score political points.

“As Republicans focus on constructive ways for the two parties to work together on cutting spending and debt, Sen. Schumer seems strangely preoccupied with the notion of a government shutdown,” said Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Health Care: Trump resists pressure for nationwide stay-at-home order | Trump open to speaking to Biden about virus response | Fauci gets security detail | Outbreak creates emergency in nursing homes McConnell: Pelosi trying to 'jam' Senate on fourth coronavirus relief bill On The Money: House Dems push huge jobs project in wake of coronavirus | Trump leans on businesses in virus response | Lawmakers press IRS to get relief checks to seniors MORE (Ky.).

“It is our hope that he soon realizes the only person talking about a shutdown is Sen. Schumer,” Stewart added. “Most Americans and even many in his own party have come to realize that the gravity of our current fiscal problems calls for constructive dialogue that will lead to serious cuts in spending and debt.”