Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid would support letting the $85 billion in across-the-board sequestration cuts take effect on Friday if Republicans don't agree to increasing taxes as part of an alternative plan, the Nevada Democrat said on Tuesday
"Until there's some agreement on revenue, I think we should just go ahead with the sequester," Reid told reporters after a meeting with Senate Democrats.
Republicans and Democrats agreed in 2011 to establish an automatic trigger that would slash the federal budget—a process called sequestration—to encourage them to reach a deficit reduction plan. The deadline for that trigger begins Friday, March 1, but both sides appear to be at an impasse about how to avoid it. President Barack Obama and Democrats are demanding that tax increases be included in an alternative plan, while Republicans want to achieve the goal by reining in spending alone.
With the deadline approaching, neither chamber of Congress has passed an alternative bill yet, but the Senate is poised to hold votes on both a Republican bill and a Democratic bill later this week.
The Republican-led House and Democrat-majority Senate have played a game of chicken for weeks now, each waiting for the other to act. House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, has said repeatedly that he would not put a bill on the floor of the House until the Senate acts first, pointing to two measures the House approved to avoid the sequester last year. (Those bills expired when the new Congress began in January.)
"We should not have to move a third bill before the Senate gets off their ass and begins to do something," a testy Boehner said during a press conference on Tuesday morning.
Reid responded to Boehner's statement a few hours later, pushing back on his assertion that the Senate was inactive—and on Boehner's unorthodox word choice.
"I was raised in a little town that had 13 brothels in it, so I'm used to some pretty salty language as you know," Reid said as he began his weekly press briefing with reporters on Tuesday. "I think he should understand who is staying on their posterior. We're doing our best here to pass something. The speaker is doing nothing to try to pass anything over there."