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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) responded to a question about funding for children's cancer research by asking, "Why would we do that?" Republicans pounced on the remark as evidence that Reid cared less for sick children than for his own partisan position. While Reid tried to recover from the gaffe, what he says he really meant was just as bad, or perhaps worse: he wanted to fund cancer trials, but wouldn't unless the House accepted everything else he wanted. In effect, he is holding every program hostage until he gets his way.
After Senator Reid disingenously complained on the Senate floor that children with cancer would be shut out of clinical trials because of the government shutdown, the House passed a Continuing Resolution that funded the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The real significance of the comment is not that Reid won't fund cancer research, because Reid is in favor of that. It's that he thinks Congress should not exercise control over what gets funded and what doesn't.
Reid's explanation was in many ways worse than the gaffe.
“What I told Dana Bash, who is a fine reporter, is that we care about all of these things,” he continued. “We care about our state parks, we care about our veterans, but we can’t fall into the trap…of Cruz-led Republicans. That is this…we’ll cherry pick…and finally at the end, everything will be open except for ObamaCare.”
Congress' job, and especially that of the House, is exactly to cherry-pick.
The shutdown battle is a fundamental constitutional power struggle between the branches, with the Senate fighting on the side of the Executive against the House. As Mike Needham points out in The Federalist,
Official Washington regularly casts scorn on the “brinksmanship” that has characterized our nation’s fiscal debates for the last three years. There has been brinksmanship in recent years, but it’s only offensive if you wish to place our nation on perpetual cruise control.
They noticed it over at Conservative Treehouse, too.
Reid says that he doesn't want to fund any part of the government unless it all can be funded. He is, in fact, holding hostage each of these programs that the House, and most of the Senate, believe are in the national interest to fund, so that he can win a partisan political battle.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) said:
House Republicans didn't want it to come to this. We have been ready to negotiate on the budget and the CR. Our conferees are appointed. We have continued to send ideas and information and options over to the Senate, and it has been with great disappointment that we have watched the Senate not take these up.
The President and Senate Majority Leader must negotiate. If anyone is in a position not to negotiate, it is the House, with full Constitutional authority to control, in as much detail as they wish, how the government does and does not spend our money.