HUFFINGTONPOST.COM - Senate leaders again raised the specter of a federal government shutdown Wednesday in the latest round of partisan brinksmanship over the fight to extend the payroll tax cut.
"The most immediate concern at this point is, despite the federal funding expiring two days from now on Friday night, my friend the majority leader is blocking action on the funding bill that would keep the government open," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on the Senate floor, referring to Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
The government runs out of funding on Dec. 16. Few observers expected that date to spark another shutdown fight, since House and Senate lawmakers had finished most of the work on the so-called omnibus bill designed to keep Washington running.
But now a move to extend the 2 percent payroll tax holiday is suddenly getting in the way, after the House passed a GOP measure to do that Tuesday packed with items the Democrats see as poison pills. Senate Democrats want to pass a 3.1 percent cut, paid for by a surtax on income above $1 million, and believe that they have overwhelming public support on their side.
Although McConnell warned lawmakers of the threat of a government shutdown, Reid argued that he was being disingenuous and had placed himself in an odd position. One day earlier, McConnell demanded an immediate vote of the House payroll cut bill. After it passed, however, he turned down Reid's request to bring it to the Senate floor. Democrats need to hold a vote on it so that they can dispatch the GOP-supported bill and begin pursuing a compromise that they find more acceptable. McConnell saying no, they argue, shows he's not really interested in reaching a deal or getting the government funded.
"My friend is living in a world of non-reality," Reid said, speaking just after McConnell. "I think that everyone can see very clearly that my friends on the other side of the aisle obviously want the government to shut down," he added, linking the current GOP leaders to the infamous government shutdowns that occurred in the 1990s under the watch of then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
"They have had experience doing this," Reid said. "That presumptive Republican nominee, Newt Gingrich, tried that once. It didn't work so well. so I don't think it's going to work very well again."