* Aides describe relationship as 'cordial,' 'frank'
* Political rivals seek common ground
* Both draw Tea Party fire
By Thomas Ferraro
WASHINGTON, April 7 (Reuters) - Hard-nosed rivals with
tough backgrounds, John Boehner and Harry Reid are locked in a
bitter fight over U.S. spending cuts but aides say they have a
good relationship that may offer the best hope of avoiding a
Boehner, the Republican Speaker of the U.S. House of
Representatives, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a
Democrat, have been negotiating on and off for weeks, and now
face a Friday midnight deadline when funds will run out.
Reid says Democrats have met Republican demands more than
half way by agreeing to about $33 billion in cuts this fiscal
year to trim the hefty U.S. deficit.
But Boehner, under pressure from some House Republicans, is
Failure to reach a deal would shut down large parts of the
federal government, putting hundreds of thousands of people out
of work, closing national parks and museums, and stalling
mortgage and small business loans.
While the rhetoric between the two sides regularly flares
up, the two central figures are keeping the talks going.
"One reason there are still negotiations is that Reid and
Boehner can talk to each other," a Republican aide said.
"Unlike some members around here, they don't hate each other."
"Reid knows how to fight, but he would rather get things
done. He sees Speaker Boehner similarly minded and I think
that's one of the things that Reid respects about him," a
Democratic aide said.
The two men routinely swap proposals via telephone and
through staff. When they negotiate face to face, they generally
do so in their offices and are joined by only two others -- the
heads of the House and Senate appropriations committees.
For the second time in two days, Boehner and Reid went to
the White House late on Wednesday to confer with President
Barack Obama. Afterward, standing together before reporters,
they said progress had been made, but that differences remain
and they would continue to work on a getting a deal.
LONG ROADS TO WHITE HOUSE
Reid, 71, and Boehner, 61, came a long way to earn White
Reid is a one-time amateur boxer from a Nevada desert town.
His father was a hardrock miner, and his mother took in laundry
from the local brothels to make ends meet.
Reid was first elected to Congress in 1982 after battling
organized crime as Nevada's state gaming commissioner, and he
has been the Democratic leader in the Senate since 2005.
The son of a bar owner, Boehner grew up in Ohio with 11
brothers and sisters. He worked his way through college as a
janitor, and he ran his own small business before being elected
to the House in 1990.
Boehner became Speaker in January after Republicans won the
House from Obama's Democrats with the help of the conservative
Tea Party movement demanding deep cuts in U.S. spending.
He is now drawing the wrath of many Republican lawmakers
linked to the Tea Party movement who complain that he hasn't
demanded deep enough cuts and say they may challenge him in the
Some Republicans say a government shutdown would be better
than ignoring the problem of a ballooning budget deficit,
butBoehner clearly wants to reach a deal. Reid's team says he
"I don't know if he (Reid) likes him, but he respects him.
He sees him as someone who's largely negotiated in good faith,"
a Democratic aide said.
"Reid and Boehner are both adults and can have an open
discussion of where each is, where their members are and what
it will take to come to an agreement," a Republican aide said.
While the two men accuse each other's party of being
financially reckless, they have refrained from ripping into
each other and their teams think they'll come up with a
compromise agreement in time.
"They'll get a deal. That's what people want," another
Republican aide said.
(Additional reporting by Richard Cowan and Andy Sullivan;
Editing by Kieran Murray)
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