By Jon H. Harsch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, Feb. 22 – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., issued a challenge to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, Tuesday over the risk of a government shutdown when current budget authority expires March 4. Faced with Boehner's insistence on including spending cuts with even a short-term extension, Reid called instead for a straight no-further-cuts extension to “keep the government running for 30 days while both sides can negotiate a common-sense, long-term solution.”

Reid insisted that “Speaker Boehner should stop drawing lines in the sand, and come to the table to find a responsible path forward that cuts government spending while keeping our communities safe and our economy growing. It would be the height of irresponsibility to shut down the government without any negotiations, as Republicans are threatening to do. A shutdown could send our fragile economy back into a recession, and mean no Social Security checks for seniors, less funding for border security and no paychecks for our troops.”

Saying that avoiding a shutdown will “give us time to negotiate a responsible path forward,” Reid said he's “asked Sen. Inouye, Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, to prepare a clean Continuing Resolution that I can bring to the floor next week. Since this bill is intended to fund vital services like Social Security, our military and border security, it should have no legislation or riders tied to it. This bill will include the $41 billion in budget cuts that Democrats and Republicans agreed to in December.”

Reid added that he has asked his chief of staff David Krone to begin negotiations with Speaker Boehner’s chief of staff Barry Jackson “to craft a long-term continuing resolution that cuts waste and excess, while protecting the initiatives that keep us safe, put Americans back to work and keep our economy on the right track. . . It is time to drop the threats and ultimatums, and work together on a path forward. I am asking Speaker Boehner to simply take the threat of a government shutdown off the table, and work with us to negotiate a responsible, long-term solution.”

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, Sens. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., Tom Coburn, R-Okla., Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Mark Warner, D-Va., and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., are continuing a bipartisan effort to work out a compromise budget agreement.

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