WASHINGTON -- Senate Democrats argued Monday that they couldn't give an inch on whittling away Obamacare in a government funding bill because it would be like encouraging bullies to hit them again and again with other fast-approaching must-pass pieces of legislation.
"With a bully, you cannot let them slap you around because today they slap you five or six times," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters. "Tomorrow it's seven or eight times. We are not going to be bullied."
Reid noted that Democrats have agreed to fund the government for six weeks at the spending levels that the tea party-driven Republicans want. "We have done everything we can," he said.'
The Senate majority leader argued that a standoff next month over raising the nation's $16.7 trillion debt ceiling would be even worse than shutting down the federal government.
"This is horrible what they're doing now, but as the Business Roundtable has said, the Chamber of Commerce said, the debt ceiling is cataclysmic. They are playing with fire, and the American people know who's creating the fire," Reid said.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) added to that later, telling reporters in a brief hallway interview that giving in on funding the government now would lead to hostage-taking on both raising the debt ceiling and passing a full-year spending bill in November or December.
"Anything on Obamacare, if we were to give in to them, then the hard right would say, 'See, all we have to do is hang tough on the debt ceiling and we'll get more. All we have to do is hang tough on full funding of the government in December and we'll get more.' If you give in to this kind of extortion, you will be extorted again even more so," Schumer said.
Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.