Defiant Dems say they won’t be shut out of budget talks

Source: Hannah Northey, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, October 5, 2015

Senior Democrats from both chambers of Congress yesterday said Republican efforts to cut them out of budget talks ahead of a potential government shutdown in mid-December will ultimately fail.

“There is at least one of the leaders in Congress trying to cut us out, but it’s not happening,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters on Capitol Hill.

Reid said he and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had visited the White House twice this week to discuss appropriations, and that Republicans would ultimately need Democratic votes and participation for any budget compromise to succeed.

Reid made the comments after being asked about reports that top Republicans are trying to negotiate directly with the White House over the budget fiasco while circumventing Democrats.

Earlier this week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) reportedly insisted during a phone call with President Obama that House and Senate Democratic leaders not be allowed at the table, a demand the president refused to accept, according to a Tuesday CNN story.

A spokesman for McConnell did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the CNN report.

Pelosi, also at yesterday’s news conference, said congressional Democrats would be part of any solution. “At the end of the day, it has to be a bill the president will sign … so Republicans know that they have to reach across party lines,” she said.

At the White House yesterday, spokesman Josh Earnest indicated there would be no deal without Democrats’ participation.

“For any of this business to get taken care of, Republicans will not succeed in passing that legislation along party lines,” he said.

Anxiety over a shutdown was delayed this week after the House and Senate passed a continuing resolution keeping agencies working through Dec. 11, sidestepping demands from conservatives to delay funding the government until Democrats and Obama agreed to block federal funds for Planned Parenthood (E&E Daily, Oct. 1).

The Senate passed the legislation 78-20, and hours later, the House approved it 277-151, with opposition coming mainly from Republicans unimpressed with a symbolic vote in the House against Planned Parenthood.