Las Vegas Sun

January 31, 2015

Currently: 57° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account

The Policy Racket

Harry Reid warns of government shutdown amid budget fight

Sun Coverage

With only a few weeks until the Senate and House must approve new funding legislation to keep the country humming, Democrats are sounding an alarm: Republicans are willing to let the country go dark to score political points.

It’s fear-mongering a la 1995 that certainly seems plausible, given the standoff between Republicans and Democrats over how deep cuts to the budget should be.

But is it true that Republicans are willing to let the government go dark where Democrats are not?

“We can’t afford to let fixing our economy become a casualty of partisanship,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, saying he'd avoid a shutdown of government at all costs. His office handed out a list of quotes by various Republican lawmakers saying a government shutdown might well be on the horizon Thursday during a press conference to bring attention to the question of a shutdown. “This political tactic could kill our economic recovery and drive unemployment rates even higher.”

But House members say Reid is fabricating an existential crisis to score political points. Many are pointing the finger right back, saying it’s incumbent on Democrats, who control the White House and the Senate, to make the cuts necessary to save the economy from skyrocketing debt -- and if they don’t a shutdown will be just as much their fault.

“The only people discussing a government shut down are Democrats who control both the White House and the Senate,” said Nevada Rep. Dean Heller’s spokesman Stewart Bybee. “With more than $14 trillion in debt, government spending must be addressed in this process...This includes working together to achieve a balanced budget and bring government spending to sustainable levels. If the government shuts down it is a shared failure by both parties.”

The threat of a shutdown, perceived or real, doesn’t just come from a standoff over the budget. The country is also bound on a crash course toward the $14.294 trillion debt ceiling, a point that, if hit (we're at $14.108 trillion right now, and climbing), would mean the United States would start to default on its loans and have to cut essential services.

Republican leaders have identified both the budget deadline of March 4, and the less certain date of collision with the debt ceiling -- expected sometime in the spring -- to do something about runaway spending.

But Democrats are accusing Republicans of using the general state of panic in the country over the budget to call for across the board hacks that aren’t smart -- or going to do much to help put the country on a more prosperous course.

The funny part of all of this, of course, is that despite all the political vitriol, neither side has revealed a full budget proposal.

Yes, House Republican Budget committee chair Paul Ryan, who has unilateral authority to set spending limits for the House under the new rules of the 112th Congress, proposed slashing about $32 billion from the rest of the fiscal 2011 budget -- $74 billion less than Obama’s request. But that’s just a threshold, not a detailed resolution.

Meanwhile, the president’s budget for fiscal 2012 -- where everyone expects the real fight to focus -- isn’t due out until mid-month.

Some, like Democratic Senate Budget Committee Chair Kent Conrad, are calling for a general summit to iron out spending grievances and set a long-term course toward deficit reduction. Democrats and Republicans haven’t agreed, or disagreed.

But at some point soon, it seems like some communal traffic cop- work might be necessary.

“We will work from something that the House will send us,” Reid said, speaking for Democrats about the Republican’s yet-to-be-fully-unveiled budget proposal for the remainder of fiscal 2011, calling what they’ve seen so far “even more Draconian than we’d originally anticipated.”

But Republicans are waiting for Democrats to make the first move on the budget that will take us past September.

“We haven’t seen a bill yet,” said Rep. Joe Heck’s spokesman Darren Littell. “Until then, there’s nothing to say.”

But Reid insists the time is right for Democrats to be raising fears about government shutdowns.

“I think it’s important for us to talk about the government shutdown, especially when it gets patterned after statements made by people in the last few months that that’s what they want to do,” Reid said, referring to comments “made by especially the new people who have come to Congress.”

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy

Previous Discussion: 8 comments so far…

Comments are moderated by Las Vegas Sun editors. Our goal is not to limit the discussion, but rather to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and contain no abusive language. Comments that are off-topic, vulgar, profane or include personal attacks will be removed. Full comments policy. Additionally, we now display comments from trusted commenters by default. Those wishing to become a trusted commenter need to verify their identity or sign in with Facebook Connect to tie their Facebook account to their Las Vegas Sun account. For more on this change, read our story about how it works and why we did it.

Only trusted comments are displayed on this page. Untrusted comments have expired from this story.

  1. He should use some of his personal finances to help the county float. It's not like he doesn't got it!

  2. I was a federal worker the last time the Republicans shut down the government - it ends up costing more because we didn't work and we got paid later. So what should happen is to approve a new budget and then cut 15% of the government workers and cut any programs that might be interpreted to be non-essential.

  3. Harry keeps opening his mouth and inserting his foot. His comments about this should be given the same scrutiny that Politifact gave his recent remarks on Ralston's Face to Face:

  4. Does anyone believe this blowhard Reid's scare tactics anymore? If the nation "goes dark" it will be because of HIM AND HIS FELLOW OUTLAWS, not the GOP. If he isn't willing to go-along with the NEEDED BUDGET CUTS, then when the nation "goes dark", he will be responsible. Who out there in discussion land is still willing to defend this guy's rhetoric?

  5. a nice fat cut to the nation defense funds, ala the wars in afganistan, would certainly help right the financial ship, yet no one seems to want to discuss that.

  6. The RepubliCONs need to get out of the Warmonger business, and our country would not be in this deep financial crisis in the first place. Remember, the RepubliCONs represent only the top 2% of US. The rest of US get sold out by the Greedy OLD Party. A vote for RepubliCONs is a vote against yourself, your family, friends, and neighbors. The same BS was pulled in the mid 90's by Gingass contract on America, and look how that worked out...NOT.

  7. Back before the election, Speaker Boehner declared that the GOP promised to cut $100 billion by rolling back non-discretionary spending to 2008 levels.

    In fact, the GOP released their "Pledge to America" and swore to the American people this would be done immediately... within the first year.

    So what happened?

    The House Budget Committee, chaired by Paul Ryan, released their plan which only cuts $32 billion from last year's spending.

    Then, Ryan claims savings of $74 billion using funny math! The AP reports that, "Republicans juiced up the $100 billion promise in the first place by using as their starting point President Barack Obama's $1.128 trillion budget request, a theoretical figure that was never approved by Congress." They're quoting cuts from a budget that was never enacted, and money that was never spent!

    Meanwhile, while the GOP and republican commentors were critical of Democrats limiting debate and amendments, and swore they would be different... the GOP failed to allow amendments on their health care repeal effort.

    And while republican commenters were highly critical of legislation tacked on via amendments, the GOP in the Senate just tacked on a health care repeal amendment to a completely unrelated bill!

    Where's the outrage by the republicans? Why aren't they protesting? Where's the tea party?

    Was it all just for show?

  8. I'm with you Kevin, it wasn't enough cuts and the GOP didn't get the message. We want more cuts, eliminate the Department of Uneducation which has continually worked to destroy our young children's ability to effectively learn. Scale back the Departments of Interior and the EPA. Stop spending 1.5 trillion dollars more than you have every year that costs us $400,000,000 a year in interest payments. That's a good start. The GOP is on probation and if they don't perform we'll get some folks in there that will make the cuts we need. We're tired of Democratic leadership that "deems we have a budget." When President Obama was campaigining he said he'd take a "scalpel and a hatchet" to the budget. We just didn't know he was going to do that to the American Family's budget.