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Government shutdown would be GOP's fault, Reid, Schumer say

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is shown during a televised Nevada Senate debate, Oct. 14, 2010, in Las Vegas. AP Photo/Julie Jacobson

Senate Democrats today put forward a plan to keep the government funded for an additional 30 days and insisted that if there is a government shutdown after funding runs out on March 4, it will be the fault of House Republicans.

"They've been asked to take [the threat of a government shut down] off the table," Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a conference call with reporters today. "They won't. We have."

Because the Democratic-led Congress failed to pass a budget for the full 2011 fiscal year last year, the government will run out of money on March 4 -- unless Congress passes some version of a Continuing Resolution (CR) bill. The House on Friday passed a CR bill that cuts more than $60 billion from this year's federal budget -- including funding for things like border security, Planned Parenthood and public broadcasting. The measure does not stand a chance in the Democratic-led Senate, and President Obama has promised to veto any CR bill that does not meet his standards.

To avoid a government shutdown, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid today proposed legislation to keep the government running for another 30 days at the funding levels Congress approved in December. Reid and Schumer noted today those levels were $41 billion less than President Obama requested.

"For the Republicans to say we're not cutting anything, they're being disingenuous and unfair," Reid said today. "They're refusing to come to the table at all. We're proposing a short-term solution that will give us time to negotiate."

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) released a statement today saying that when it comes to claims that Republicans are threatening a shutdown, "nothing could be further than the truth."

Cantor challenged Reid to identify any new spending cuts in his plan and blasted the Democratic leader for choosing to "lock in the status quo."

Reid said that Democrats want a chance to negotiate with Republicans face to face -- not through the press.

House Speaker John Boehner released his own statement insisting that if Reid refuses to put the House-passed CR up for a vote, the House will pass a short-term spending bill to keep the government running -- but one that will cut more spending.

"Senate Democratic leaders are insisting on a status quo that has left us with a mountain of debt and a stalled economy with unemployment near 10 percent. That is not a credible position," Boehner said. "Republicans' goal is to cut spending and reduce the size of government, not to shut it down."

Schumer said today that Boehner remembers the government shutdown of 1995 and should understand the consequences. Yet he said the House speaker is being "misled and pushed around by his conservative freshmen who don't remember what happened in 1995."

"Now's the time for House Republican leaders to stand up to the hard right," he said.

Schumer added that the hundreds of amendments tacked onto the House CR bill showed Republicans' "lack of seriousness" on the matter.

"We're not going to resolve the issues of abortion, or Net neutrality, or clean air on this CR," he said.

Reid said Senate Democrats will be willing to make further cuts in the long-term continuing resolution, but he refused to say where.

"There is no question we need to cut government spending," he said. But, he added, "If we're going to ask our caucus to accept further cuts, there has to be negotiation."

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