(CNN) – Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander and Democratic Sen. Mark Warner engaged in a political back-and-forth Sunday that revealed fractures between both parties—and the House and Senate.
Though Warner admitted the threat of another government shutdown as a result of a budget showdown is “embarrassing,” he also told CNN’s “State of the Union” that the conservative tea party movement was causing yet another stalemate.
The latest budget faceoff comes as current funding for government agencies is set to expire September 30 without a continuing resolution to extend spending.
The House of Representatives passed a short-term bill that included additional money for disaster relief through the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers, which have almost depleted their resources due to Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee, wildfires and tornadoes this year.
The Senate defeated the House measure on Friday, complaining that it included spending cuts elsewhere to offset some of the additional disaster relief money in what Democrats called an unprecedented encumbrance to emergency aid.
Warner blamed “a small group within the House of the tea party crowd” for demanding the spending offsets and picking another budget fight after last month’s debt ceiling deal that was supposed to prevent any further threats of a government shutdown through 2012.
“There is this effort that’s ‘my way or the highway’ again,” said Warner, the former governor of Virginia.
But Alexander, a former governor of Tennessee now in his second Senate term, pointed the blame back at Democrats, saying Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid “manufactured a crisis all week about disaster when there’s no crisis.”
“Everybody knows we’re going to pay for every single penny of disaster aid that the president declares and that FEMA certifies,” Alexander insisted. “The House sent over a bill that does that and the Senate should have approved it.”
Warner called the current standoff a “spectacle,” while Alexander described it as a week of “chest-pounding and game-playing.”
But for both senators, Congress and the nation should be focused instead on the role of the special joint congressional committee created to force a deficit reduction plan.
“We've got to get back to the bigger issue which is how do we send confidence back to the American public and to the markets,” Warner said. “The only way we're going to get that done is if we actually, Democrats and Republicans, start being Americans before they put on their partisan hats.”