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Thursday
Dec272012

Reid Goes After Boehner at Cliff's Edge

Tom Williams/CQ Roll CallUPDATE: The House will return for legislative business on Sunday evening.

(WASHINGTON) -- With only five days left before the federal government goes over the fiscal cliff, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid shattered any pretense of cooperation with Republicans in a scathing speech that targeted House Republicans and particularly Speaker John Boehner.

Reid, D-Nev., spoke on the floor of the Senate as President Obama returned to Washington early from an Hawaiian vacation in what appears to be a dwindling hope for a deal on taxes and spending cuts before the Jan. 1 deadline that will trigger tax increases and sharp spending cuts.

Boehner, however, has not returned to Washington from a Christmas break and has not called the House back into session.

"We are here in Washington working while the members of the House of Representatives are out watching movies and watching their kids play soccer and basketball and doing all kinds of things. They should be here," Reid said. "I can't imagine their consciences."

House Republicans have balked at a White House deal to raise taxes on couples earning more than $250,000 and even rejected Boehner's proposal that would limit the tax increases to people earning more than $1 million.

"It's obvious what's going on," Reid said while referring to Boehner. "He's waiting until Jan. 3 to get reelected to speaker because he has so many people over there that won't follow what he wants. John Boehner seems to care more about keeping his speakership than keeping the nation on a firm financial footing."

Reid said the House is "being operated with a dictatorship of the speaker" and suggested Thursday that the Republicans should agree to accept the original Senate bill pass in July. Reid's comments, however, made it clear he did not expect that to happen.

"It looks like" the nation will go over the fiscal cliff in just five days, he declared.

"It's not too late for the speaker to take up the Senate-passed bill, but that time is even winding down," Reid said. "So I say to the speaker, take the escape hatch that we've left you. Put the economic fate of the nation ahead of your own fate as Speaker of the House."

Boehner's spokesman Michael Steel reacted to Reid's tirade in an email, writing, "Senator Reid should talk less and legislate more. The House has already passed legislation to avoid the entire fiscal cliff. Senate Democrats have not."

Boehner has said it is now up to the Senate to come up with a deal.

Obama, who landed in Washington late Thursday morning, made a round of calls over the last 24 hours to Reid, Boehner, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

McConnell "is happy to review what the president has in mind, but to date, the Senate Democrat majority has not put forward a plan," McConnell aide Don Stewart said in a statement. "When they do, members on both sides of the aisle will review the legislation and make decisions on how best to proceed."

Jason Peuquet, research director for the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, said the conditions for a bipartisan agreement are there.

"Just by the numbers, they're incredibly close," Peuquet told ABC News. "And so it seems pretty crazy that they wouldn't be able to find an agreement."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio