From left, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin of Illinois during a news conference Sept. 30.
(Photo: J. Scott Applewhite, AP)
WASHINGTON (USA Today) - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Monday that Democrats will not negotiate over the nation's debt limit, even if Republicans switch their demands away from delaying or defunding Obamacare.
"I've compromised," Reid said, pointing to Democrats' agreement to accept a 2014 budget resolution that is $70 billion less than what they wanted. "I'm not doing it any more. Neither is the president."
Congress, already dealing with a government shutdown that began Oct. 1, is facing an Oct. 17 deadline to raise the nation's debt ceiling. If it is not raised, the nation would default on its debts for the first time in history. Economists warn that the result would be soaring interest rates, plummeting stock values, job losses and a possible new recession.
House Republicans are reportedly discussing a range of demands they would seek from Democrats as part of a budget agreement to reopen the government and raise the debt limit.
Among their possible demands: cuts to entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare and a commitment from Democrats to overhaul the nation's tax system. In exchange, some Republicans have brought up the possibility of ending the automatic, across-the-board budget cuts known as "sequestration."
Reid said Democrats won't accept any demands that are tied to the shutdown or debt limit vote.
"Never in the history of this country has there been a time when members of Congress say, 'Do what I want or I'm not going to fund the government,' " Reid said in an interview in his Capitol office with the Reno Gazette-Journal and Gannett.
Reid told Boehner last week that he will negotiate on Obamacare, entitlement programs and any other federal spending - but only after Republicans vote to reopen the government.
Boehner, R-Ohio, on Monday blamed Senate Democrats and Obama for the continuing shutdown and stalemate.
"The president's refusal to negotiate is hurting our economy and putting our country at risk," Boehner said in a speech on the House floor.
Reid said Boehner has painted himself into a political corner by giving in to demands from the Tea Party wing of the GOP caucus.
"It's up to him to get himself out," Reid said.
The Nevadan said defaulting on the debt would be much worse than the shutdown. For one thing, he said, the federal government would not have the money to continue to pay Social Security benefits. Those benefits are still being paid during the shutdown.
"The government shutdown is bad," he said. "But defaulting on the debt would be horrible."