House GOP Suddenly Stepped Back From Bipartisan Talks Last Week After Tea Party Anger Over Budding Compromise Boiled Over
Schumer Prods Speaker: Path To Compromise Does Not Go Through Tea Party—Only Coalition of GOP Moderates and Democrats Can Avert Shutdown
WASHINGTON, DC—In remarks on the Senate floor Tuesday, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer urged House Speaker John Boehner to finally leave the Tea Party fringe of his party behind and forge a deal on a long-term budget.
Schumer said that after days of productive talks that included the White House, pressure from the far right caused House Republican leaders to abruptly pull out of bipartisan negotiations last week. The senator said the only hurdle to a deal at this point between House Republicans and the White House is the Tea Party conservatives’ refusal to compromise.
“A Tea Party rebellion may hurt the House Republican leadership politically, but a government shutdown will hurt all Americans much more. It is time for House Republican leaders to rip the band-aid off. Mr. Speaker, it’s time to forget the Tea Party and take the deal,” Schumer said.
A copy of Schumer’s floor remarks, as prepared for delivery, appears below.
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer
Senate Floor Remarks
March 29, 2011
Mr. President, I rise to speak on the current state of the bipartisan budget negotiations.
For weeks now, the offices of Senate Majority Leader, the House Speaker and the White House have been engaged in serious talks seeking a long-term budget agreement.
It has been a long, hard process, and there have been a lot of fits and starts in the negotiations.
But it is no exaggeration to say that as of last week, talks were on a smooth path towards a compromise. The Speaker’s office was negotiating in good faith. The parties significantly narrowed the $51 billion gap on how much spending should be cut. House Republican leaders had agreed to come down from H.R. 1, and meet us halfway. We could see light at the end of the tunnel.
But suddenly, at the end of last week, the House Republicans did a strange thing. They pulled back from the talks. They changed their minds about what level of spending cuts they could accept. We were right on the verge of a breakthrough, and they suddenly moved the goalposts.
We felt a little bit like we were left at the altar.
And not only did they abandon the talks, they started denying they were ever close to a deal in the first place. Majority Leader Cantor issued a statement Friday saying that reports that progress being made were “far-fetched.” It was like they decided that even the appearance of a looming compromise was a political liability. It was surreal.
It’s no surprise what happened. The headline of today’s story in the National Journal says it all: “With Revolt Brewing, GOP Backs Off Deal.”
The story reads: “Concerned about a revolt by the conservative, tea-party wing of the party, GOP leaders have pulled back from a tentative deal to cut roughly $30 billion in cuts from current spending levels. The influence that tea-party conservative now exercise over the process put the chances of a compromise seriously in doubt.”
The story continues, “… the GOP pulled back from that agreement last week after House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthywarned House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, that the deal would trigger a revolt from tea party conservatives.”
So, in other words, as soon as House Republican leaders took one step towards a compromise, the Tea Party rebelled, and so they took two steps back.
The National Journal story describes an offer that was put on the table by the White House that would have met the House Republicans halfway. This offer falls squarely in the ballpark of Congressman Ryan’s original budget proposal, with roughly $70 billion in spending cuts compared to the President’s budget request.
This is a significant move in the Republicans’ direction.
These are more cuts than many on our side might support. But it shows how seriously the White House is about wanting a compromise to avert a shutdown.
If they are planning to reject such an offer, then it’s clear they will never take ‘yes’ for an answer and are seeking a shutdown.
This level of spending cuts was good enough for House Republicans earlier this year when Hal Rogers released his original proposal. But the Tea Party hollered, and House Republicans were forced to double their proposed spending cuts to an extreme level of $61 billion.
When that happened, even Hal Rogers said that the House was moving beyond what was reasonable and into territory where they could never get a deal.
Tom Latham of Iowa agreed that in forcing H.R. 1 to go from $30 billion to $60 billion in cuts, the Tea Party was forcing Republicans to go beyond what was “enactable.”
Just as the Tea Party forced mainstream Republicans into extreme territory before, they are doing it again.
The Speaker has said all along that he wants to avoid a shutdown at all costs, and I believe him. He is a good man. The problem is, a large percentage of those in his party don’t feel the same way.
They think “compromise” is a dirty word. They think taking any steps to avert a shutdown would mean being the first to blink.
So Speaker Boehner is caught between a shutdown and a hard place. He has caught a tiger by the tail in the form of the Tea Party. There is even a Tea Party rally planned for later this week to pressure the Speaker not to budge off of H.R. 1.
To try to mask the divisions on their own side, the Republicans have resorted to lashing out in a kneejerk way at Democrats.
Their latest trick is to try to accuse Democrats of not having our own plan. This is a diversion, and it rings hollow. The only proposals that have been made that would actually avoid a government shutdown are the numerous compromises that Democrats have offered Republicans.
And I would like to remind my House Republican friends – as you know, the Senate needs 60 votes to pass a bill. We can’t pass anything without Republican agreement. Yet our Senate Republican colleagues are nowhere to be found. Since the Senate rejected the Republican job-killing budget proposal that would cost Americans 700,000 jobs a month ago, Republicans have not moved an inch off their plan.
Speaker Boehner knows when it comes to averting a government shutdown on April 8, he knows his problem is with the Tea Party, not the Democrats.
At this point, the only hurdle left to a bipartisan deal is the Tea Party. But for the Tea Party, we could have an agreement that reduces spending by a historic amount. But for the Tea Party, we could have a deal that keeps the government open.
A Tea Party rebellion may hurt the House Republican leadership politically, but a government shutdown will hurt all Americans much more.
It is time for House Republican leaders to rip the band-aid off. Mr. Speaker, it’s time to forget the Tea Party and take the deal. There are only 10 days left before the current CR expires, and there is no new stopgap being prepared by the House Republicans. It seems like the only viable proposal is the one the Speaker walked away from.
So the Speaker faces a choice: return to the deal he was prepared to accept before the Tea Party rebelled last week, or risk a shutdown on April 8. I think we know what the right answer is.
Thank you and I yield the floor.