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April 6, 2011 / J. Shaw

92 House Republicans call on Harry Reid to step down

A group of 92 House Republicans is calling on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to step down from his leadership role if the Senate does not pass a measure funding the federal government for the rest of the fiscal year.

“Mr. Reid, you also failed to pass one single appropriations bill to fund even a single federal agency, but yet you somehow muster the nerve to say Republicans are the problem,” reads the letter from the House Republicans, authored by freshman Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.). “The ball is in your court to pass a long-term spending resolution for the remainder of FY 2011 that can be reconciled with the (House-passed spending bill). With all due respect, if you do not plan to fulfill your responsibilities as Senate Majority Leader, perhaps it is time to step aside.”

A group of about a dozen freshmen including Crawford delivered the letter to the Senate side of the Capitol on Wednesday, then held their sixth news conference since last week urging the Senate to act on funding the government.

The Senate has already rejected both the House-passed measure and a separate proposal by Senate Democrats. Congressional leaders had agreed last month that the Senate would vote on both measures, which were expected to fail, so that leaders could return to their caucuses with greater leverage to push for a compromise.

The freshmen, who were joined by Sens. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), reiterated their argument that any federal shutdown would be on the shoulders of Senate Democrats and the White House, with some arguing that Democrats would like a shutdown so that they can boost their party’s political fortunes.

Some Republican House members took jabs at President Obama for only recently stepping up his personal involvement in the budget talks.

“Yesterday, President Cellophane – Mr. Cellophane, as I call him, like Mr. Cellophane in ‘Chicago,’ he’s been invisible – but he couldn’t wait to beat it to a microphone to get there before John Boehner did after they had their meeting at the White House, to come out and tell us that we need to act like adults,” said freshman Rep. Billy Long (R-Mo.). “I don’t know where you grew up, but where I grew up, the adults in my neighborhood did not spend 42 percent more than they took in every year.”

“Mr. President, you’ve been absent from this debate a long time,” said Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas). “We thought about sending out an Amber Alert. We’re glad you surfaced. But now it’s time to put as much pressure on the Senate Democrats to reduce spending as you put on them to increase spending.”

Obama is slated to depart Washington for Philadelphia and New York later Wednesday, although White House spokesman Dan Pfeiffer said via Twitter that another White House meeting was still possible.

Both Lee and Sessions, although members of the Senate, sided with the House Republican freshmen and cast the blame on Senate Democrats.

The letter-writing campaign has been going both ways; earlier Wednesday, a group of 16 moderate senators penned a letter to Boehner urging him to prevent a shutdown.

“We know you understand the importance of this issue and share our desire to avoid shocks to our fragile economy that would inhibit job growth and hurt our fellow citizens,” the Democratic senators wrote. “We stand ready to resolve this short-term funding debate in a common-sense way and work with you on tackling the even more daunting fiscal challenges our country must confront.”   By Felicia Sonmez


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