Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid claimed on Sunday that GOP leaders, and particularly Speaker of the House John Boehner, were allowing themselves to be controlled by the Tea Party in the current government spending battle over fear of the activist groups.
"The answer is yes," Reid told Bob Schieffer of CBS' "Face the Nation" when asked if the GOP was "afraid" of the Tea Party. "The Tea Party is dictating a lot that goes on in the Republican leadership in the House and they shouldn't, it shouldn't be that way."
The Associated Press reports on the current state of the negotiations.
Late last week, Obama said that compromise was close with Republicans on $33 billion in cuts, and he warned that without a deal the ensuing government shutdown would "jeopardize our economic recovery" just as jobs are finally being created.
There are indications the $33 billion figure may truly be in play, with sufficient votes lined up among mainstream House Republicans and Democrats. But House Speaker John Boehner is denying a deal is in the works, apparently fearing he would alienate the Republican tea party conference and damage party solidarity in advance of the coming 2012 presidential election. Many of the 87 new Republican House members say they will not go for a compromise.
Reid's comments about the nature of the relationship between the Tea Party and Republicans are only the latest in a messaging battle that has led to competing charges of "extremism" in the ongoing debate.
Last week, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called the Tea Party a "relatively small, extreme group of ideologues" who were weighing down the deliberations with unrealistic proposals. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell fired back later in the week, calling Democrats the extreme ones for resisting deep cuts proposed by Republicans and supported by the Tea Party.
On Sunday, Reid continued this line of attack, attempting to downplay the true power of the conservative activists and accusing Republicans of being overly concerned with the will of the group.
"The Tea Party is not looked at very strongly around the country. The only attention they get is in the House of Representatives and they shouldn't be getting that attention," Reid said, pointing to a poorly attended rally held by the conservative activists on Capitol Hill last week.
WATCH (comments begin at the 3:30 mark):
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