WASHINGTON -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) leveled a surprising charge at Republicans Wednesday: "They like the pain" of sequestration.
Reid was responding to his counterpart, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who had just accused him of proposing a gimmick to ease the $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts mandated by Congress' budget sequester this year.
Reid is suggesting the government use the savings from winding down the war in Afghanistan to offset the budget cuts for the rest of this fiscal year. Many independent observers have also called those savings a gimmick because even though additional war spending is projected on the books, the nation had already counted on ending the fighting in Afghanistan.
"Whether [Overseas Contingency Operations] is the mother of all gimmicks or just a glaring one, everybody other than the majority leader evidently agrees on one thing: It's the height of fiscal irresponsibility," McConnell charged.
Still, members of both parties have shown some willingness to use those theoretical savings, and Reid suggested doing so as a stopgap until Congress can come up with a better plan.
"We're asking to take a few dollars of the $650 billion that's there ... to relieve the pain we're feeling now for five months," said Reid.
He cited a New York Times editorial that said Republicans are focused on Federal Aviation Administration furloughs and flight delays because they affect GOP constituents who use private airports and can afford to fly for vacation.
Reid argued that Republicans are not highlighting cuts to programs like Head Start and scientific research because they actually like much of the sequester -- especially if they can exempt the parts they don't like.
"I think it's really unfair that it would be so easy to turn the sequester around and allow us to do something for the long term to take care of this issue," Reid said. "But no, the Republicans like the pain," he said. "They like the pain."
Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.