Democrats are saying that they've reached a compromise figure with Republicans on budget cuts, but GOP House Speaker John Boehner -- facing increasing pressure from the Tea Party -- says that's not true.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said today that Democrats and Republicans "have agreed upon a number on which to base our budget cuts," echoing remarks from Vice President Joe Biden Wednesday night. Both Democrats say the parties have agreed to cut a record $33 billion from the rest of this year's budget, which covers about six months. If Congress doesn't agree to a new spending bill by April 8, the federal government will shut down.
Boehner told reporters today, however, that lawmakers are working to come to an agreement on cuts but have not agreed to stop at $33 billion. "There is no agreement on numbers and nothing will be agreed to until everything is agreed to," he said.
In his remarks today, Reid echoed Democratic talking points that Boehner is paying heed to the Tea Party elements of his party, who want to see the Senate pass (at the very least) the House-approved budget that cuts $61 billion."I appreciate Speaker Boehner's participation in these talks," Reid said. "I'm sure it's not easy trying to negotiate with the Tea Party screaming in his right ear."
Tea Party groups are ratcheting up their pressure on Boehner today with a rally outside of the Capitol, with House Tea Party Caucus leader Rep. Michele Bachmann planning to speak. If Boehner fails to cut enough from the budget, Mark Meckler of the Tea Party Patriots told the Associated Press, Tea Partiers could mount a primary challenge against the speaker.
Meckler said "you're going to see massive amounts" of primary challenges against Republican lawmakers, including Boehner, next year if Republicans go along with the plan to cut $33 billion.
Judson Phillips of Tea Party Nation already said in a message to his organization today that "Boehner must go."
"The Tea Party must unite and make sure Boehner is replaced in the next election," he wrote. "We need people in leadership who are committed to cutting spending and eliminating these programs."
While Republican leaders were not expected to attend today's Tea Party rally, they nevertheless praised the group's presence.
"Despite the Democratic leadership's talking points, these folks are not radicals," Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor today. "They're our next-door neighbors and our friends."
Boehner also told reporters today of the Tea Party, "I'm glad that they're engaged in the process," he said. "You know, I said over a year ago that we should talk with the Tea Party folks, that we should listen to them and we should walk amongst them. I don't feel any differently about it today. Any time Americans want to engage in their government..we should welcome that."