By Jueseppi B.
White House Tweets – October 12, 2013
Lawmakers arrive for budget showdown
Members of Congress arrive for a special Saturday session as the government shutdown continues and the debt ceiling deadline looms.
President Barack Obama summoned Senate Democratic leaders to the White House to talk strategy Saturday afternoon after budget and debt ceiling talks between administration officials and House Republicans fell apart overnight.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), along with Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) huddled with Obama in the Oval Office for about an hour and 15 minutes starting around 3:30 p.m. Saturday to discuss the state of the talks just days before the United States is set to exhaust its borrowing power and risk defaulting on the nation’s debt.
The White House announced the session — which also included White House chief of staff Denis McDonough, deputy chief of staff Rob Nabors and Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell — just minutes before it began, but was tight-lipped about the agenda. Still photographers were allowed in for a glimpse of the meeting, but reporters and video cameras were kept out.
The optics of the day suggested a Washington once again mired in chaos. In a party-line vote, Senate Republicans blocked a Democratic proposal to lift the debt ceiling through 2014 without any spending cuts or changes to Obamacare. And just before that vote, word surfaced that Senate Democratic leaders rejected a compromise proposal from Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) which would have lifted the debt ceiling through January and keep the government open until March.
Still, there was a sense that amidst all the fighting, a solution is in the works. That’s because two of the most skilled negotiators on Capitol Hill — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — have started talking to each other, something they haven’t done in months.
“As long as people are still negotiating and still talking, that’s positive,” Collins told reporters, though she, like others, was frustrated with Democrats for rejecting her plan.
A Senate Democratic leadership aide said the senators had a very productive meeting with the president, “and they remain fully united moving forward.”
“The President and the leaders compared notes and reviewed a number of the options raised in meetings over the past few days. Their conclusion was that while Democrats remain united, Republicans have yet to coalesce behind a clear negotiating position,” the aide said in a statement. “The President and the leaders agreed that talks between Senate Democratic and Senate Republican leaders should continue in the coming days, but Democrats’ position remains the same: Democrats are willing to negotiate on anything Republicans want to discuss as soon as we reopen the government and pay our bills.”
Meanwhile, Republican senators were eager for a way out of the mess — and have their faith invested in McConnell to figure out a way forward.
“In the end, Sen. McConnell and Sen. Reid have to come up with a recommendation for us about how to open the government, how to pay our bills by raising the debt limit and how to reduce the debt,” Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said. “We have to move forward. I think we have to do the best we can, send it to the House, and then they’ll do the best they can.”
The talks came after Obama rejected a proposal from House Republicans on Friday that would have lifted the debt ceiling for six weeks, reopened the government and established six weeks of budget negotiations.
“We can’t wait for the House to save us, we have to find our own bipartisan path forward,” said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin.
But the Senate leadership discussions are hardly a slam dunk.
Each man is unpopular back home — something that McConnell will have to contend with as he tries to cut a deal with Reid and faces a tough reelection next year.
Last year, McConnell was the chief architect behind the fiscal cliff deal, after reaching a bitter impasse with Reid and instead reaching an eleventh-hour accord with Vice President Joe Biden.
But the Kentucky senator came under fire from the right because the deal raised tax rates on wealthy Americans. And as he faces a primary challenger back home, ahead of a potentially tough Democratic opponent, many in Washington believe McConnell is hamstrung and unable to stick his neck out in the latest fiscal crisis engulfing the Capitol.
And in the House, conservative Republicans are urging their Senate counterparts to remain strong.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) told a closed meeting of GOP lawmakers on Saturday morning that, “Senate Republicans need to stand strong and fight,” according to sources in the room.
For all sides, the clock is the biggest enemy. It’s unclear if a deal brokered by the Senate could come together before Thursday, when the $16.7 trillion debt limit must be boosted, according to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew. House Republican leadership sources say their offer of a six-week debt limit increase might regain favor if a Senate-brokered deal does not come together before that deadline.
— Kevin Cirilli, Manu Raju, Jake Sherman, Burgess Everett and John Bresnahan contributed to this report
Thank you POLITICO.
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The focus of efforts to end the government shutdown and prevent a U.S. default shifted to the Senate on Saturday, where leaders were in talks to resolve the twin stalemates. The Senate rejected a Democratic effort to raise the debt ceiling. (Oct. 12)
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