With a deal to avert the so-called “fiscal cliff” nowhere in sight, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Thursday predicted a compromise would not be reached in time to avert the tax increases and automatic spending cuts set to be triggered on January 1. Reid also criticized Republican House Speaker John Boehner in unusually personal terms, accusing him of running the House as a “dictatorship” and blasting him for letting lawmakers out for vacation.
Boehner will be to blame “if we go over the cliff, and it looks like that’s where we’re headed,” Reid insisted as the Senate returned to work for a post-Christmas session focused on disaster relief for Sandy victims and renewing key government surveillance powers.
Reid’s speech on the Senate floor came shortly before President Barack Obama returned to Washington from Hawaii to resume discussions of how to avoid the fiscal cliff. White House Spokesman Dan Pfeiffer said Obama had spoken to Reid, Boehner, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell Wednesday evening.
Reid, a Nevada Democrat, repeatedly pressed Boehner to have the House take up a Senate-passed bill extending income tax cuts on income under $250,000, calling that measure the only “viable escape route.” House Republicans have thus far balked at raising taxes at all.
“The Speaker just has a few days left to change his mind,” Reid said. “But I have to be very honest…I don’t know, time-wise, how it can happen now.”
“Speaker Boehner should call members of the House back today,” Reid said, adding that the Ohio Republican “seems to care more about keeping his speakership” than pushing his party to accept a deal that would avert a tax increase for all but the highest income taxpayers. Democrats have repeatedly leveled that charge at Boehner, whose reelection on January 3 is not seriously in doubt despite ever-louder conservative grumbling.
Reid also accused Boehner of operating a “dictatorship” that had shut out House Democrats and all but the most conservative voices in the GOP, saying that the Senate-passed bill would pass with mostly Democratic votes but some Republican support as well.
“Nothing can move forward in regards to our budget crisis unless Speaker Boehner and Leader McConnell are willing to participate in coming up with a bipartisan plan,” Reid warned. “Speaker Boehner is unwilling to negotiate, we’ve not heard a word from Leader McConnell, nothing is happening. Democrat’s can’t put together a plan on their own,” he said.