WASHINGTON — Sen. Chuck Schumer today, citing Michele Bachmann by name, said today that a group of Republicans are dragging down good-faith negotiations on the budget, and that House Speaker John Boehner will have to either jettison the right wing of his caucus or forget being able to work out a deal with Democrats.
“The Tea Party element in the House is digging in its heels. That is putting the Speaker in a bind,” Schumer said. “His need to avoid a shutdown is in conflict with his political desire to keep his Tea Party base happy.
“I don’t envy the position the Speaker is in, but he is going to have to make a choice one way or the other. There are two choices, but only one of them is responsible.”
Schumer was referring to a recent vote taken on the three-week continuing resolution, in which 54 Republicans (including Bachmann) bucked the party line and opposed the bill. Though a majority of Democrats were opposed, those in favor (including Collin Peterson and Tim Walz) were needed to push the bill through.
Brian Beutler of Talking Points Memo had a good look at the dynamic Boehner is facing at this point, it’s well worth the read. The key passage:
But Tuesday’s outcome was nonetheless a mixed one for Boehner. It illustrated a reality he’d hoped to escape — that a large chunk of his caucus won’t vote with him if he compromises. Indeed, the 54 Republicans who voted against the stop-gap legislation put him in an unenviable box: Either he kowtows to his right flank, and pushes initiatives that can’t pass in the Senate; or he abandons them, as Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has suggested, and passes consensus legislation. The latter option, however, would require significant concessions to win Democratic votes, and further delegitimize himself with the Tea Party base.
If he chooses option (b), he will need Democratic votes. And that would abruptly flip the dynamic on Capitol Hill, where Republicans have been riding high since they trounced Democrats in the November elections.
If he chooses option (a) — if he and his party don’t back off their pitched demand to fundamentally reshape the U.S. government — the consequences they’d hope to avoid — shutdowns and worse — will become all but inevitable.
Bachmann, for her part, said she’s simply representing the will of the people, who threw Democrats out of power in the House in a wave election and came close to flipping the Senate as well.
“It’s apparent Sen. Schumer still doesn’t understand the Tea Party movement,” Bachmann responded, saying that those in the Tea Party movement “simply want less government and lower taxes, and they want Congress to adhere to the Constitution.”
“The American people spoke loud and clear last November about who they want representing them in Congress. I voted ‘no’ yesterday because I listened to my constituents and my conscience. Sixty-two percent of the American people support a repeal of ObamaCare and I will continue tirelessly to defund the President’s health care program.”
It’s worth noting that the House has passed a budget for the remainder of the year and the Senate hasn’t. The GOP’s budget failed in the Democratic-held Senate, though a competing plan backed by Schumer and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid failed by an even larger margin.
“We knew that neither one would have the votes to pass, but we held the votes anyway, and sure enough, they both went down,” Schumer explained. “The purpose of those votes was to make it clear that both sides’ opening bids in this debate were non-starters, and thus pave the way for a serious, good-faith compromise.
“But unfortunately, an intense, ideological tail continues to wag the dog over in the House of Representatives.”
The Speaker’s office, citing the House-passed budget, wouldn’t be drawn into Schumer’s either-or scenario.
“The House has listened to the American people and done our work — passing a funding bill for the remainder of the year that cuts spending to help the private sector create jobs,” said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel. “The Democrats who run Washington, like Sen. Schumer, have yet to produce a funding bill that actually reduces spending. Right now, Sen. Schumer’s position is the status quo — and America doesn’t like status quo politicians.”