WASHINGTON -- Senate Democrats are criticizing the House GOP's approach to resolving the government shutdown, likening the Republican plan to fund only certain parts of the government to pitting children with cancer against children in Head Start programs.
"What right do they have to pick and choose what part of the government should get funded?" Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said at a press conference Wednesday.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said pushing spending bills that would restore only some government functions was a "cynical attempt to pit important programs against each other."
"Speaker Boehner is an accomplice in the tea party shutdown, and everybody knows it," Schumer said. "He's trying desperately to wriggle out of the hot seat by passing one-off bills and making half-hearted efforts to reopen pieces of the government."
The House will consider five spending bills Wednesday that would fund the government programs have garnered the most attention since shutting down, such as veterans benefits, museums and national parks, the National Guard and the National Institutes of Health.
The White House issued a veto threat on the limited appropriations bills, arguing that a piecemeal approach "is not a serious or responsible way to run the U.S. government."
"Instead of opening up a few Government functions, the House of Representatives should re-open all of the Government," the administration said in a statement. "The harmful impacts of a shutdown extend across Government, affecting services that are critical to small businesses, women, children, seniors, and others across the Nation."
President Barack Obama, who will meet with congressional leaders Wednesday, has called on House Republicans to pass the clean continuing resolution that cleared the Senate last week and funds the government through Nov. 15.
Republicans have insisted that Democrats agree to a conference committee to resolve funding for the government, but set terms to negotiate a one-year delay of the health care overhaul and end federal health care subsidies to members of Congress and their staff.
Reid said he spoke to Boehner over the phone earlier on Wednesday and offered to commit to a conference committee after Republicans pass a clean bill to reopen the government. He also read aloud a letter to the house speaker, in which Reid argued that despite his opposition to the Iraq War, he never used government funding as leverage to end it.
Boehner spokesman Michael Steel immediately rejected the offer.
"The entire government is shut down right now because Washington Democrats refuse to even talk about fairness for all Americans under ObamaCare. Offering to negotiate only after Democrats get everything they want is not much of an offer," Steel wrote in a statement. "Today, the House will continue to pass bills that reflect the American people’s priorities. The Senate passed the troop funding bill this weekend -- will they now say 'no' to funding for veterans, our National Parks and the National Institutes of Health?"