With the prospect that House Republican leadership could pass a plan to reopen government and prevent a debt default, talks between Senate leaders have screeched to a halt, with Senate Republicans embracing House Speaker John Boehner’s approach and Senate Democrats shooting down an early version of the proposal.
“Everybody was very happy that Boehner was leading. There would be almost unanimous support for the plan by Republicans, and Democrats quite frankly couldn’t say no because it would make sense,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. “Every member of the Republican conference wants to try to reach out to the House members and ask what can we do to help John Boehner. This is sort of an all-hands-on-deck approach to try and help the speaker to go on offense for the party and for the country. Whether we’ll get there, I don’t know.”
While for days it appeared a plan to reopen the government and lift the debt ceiling would emerge from talks between Senate leaders, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said Tuesday that there is no Senate plan and the focus was all on the House. “At present, there’s the hope that the House will figure out a way to send something over,” he said.
Senate Democrats, meanwhile, exited their weekly caucus luncheons looking deflated that the talks between Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., had stalled.
“We were on track and Boehner stepped in,” Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said. “McConnell’s waiting on Boehner and Boehner’s waiting on his caucus. If that sounds like familiar script, we’ve seen this movie over and over again.”
Earlier Tuesday, Reid blasted Boehner’s proposal from the Senate floor.
“It’s nothing more than a blatant attack on bipartisanship,” Reid said. “Extremist Republicans in the House of Representative are attempting to torpedo the Senate’s bipartisan progress with a bill that can’t pass the Senate.”
Before their conference luncheon, Senate Republicans were quick to point out that if the House can pass the latest plan, then there’s little incentive for McConnell to continue his talks with Reid.
“I don’t know of any reason for them to continue as long as there’s something that may well come from the House,” Corker said. “Someone might view as undermining what’s happening there if it did.”
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., rebutted the Democratic leaders on the floor today, saying he did not understand their “visceral” condemnation of the House plan.
“To condemn before the House even acts shows clearly that the president and the Democrats are much more interested in winning than they are in resolving this issue,” McCain later told reporters.
Republican senators who had been involved in bipartisan negotiations before the Reid-McConnell talks began criticized Senate Democratic leadership for shooting down Boehner’s move in the House. Reid “overplayed his hand,” said Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.
“The speaker is trying to push through a package that doesn’t have delay or defund of Obamacare and I think that the majority leader is underestimating that the speaker is really taking leadership on this and trying to pass something that is more in the ballpark of what could pass both chambers,” she said.
Durbin and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., also panned the plan on the floor. Schumer later told reporters that he is “hopeful that Boehner’s deal will collapse relatively soon, because the longer it goes, it’s not going to help get things done. The closer that brings us to D-Day, default day.”
Democrats, in particular, criticize a part of Boehner’s House proposal that would limit the extraordinary means currently available to the Treasury.
“They would never, ever consider doing this if it were President Romney, President Bush or President Bush or President Reagan,” Reid said. “Never.”
But why would Democrats so quickly shoot down the House plan?
Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., explained that there were two choices facing the leadership. Either they could accommodate the newest House plan, or they could try to ratchet up the pressure against it.
As for which plan makes more sense, Udall says he trusts the Democratic leadership’s approach.
McCain has previously cited a Washington Post/ABC poll showing 74 percent of Americans disapprove of how Republicans in Washington are handling the budget crises as the reason why Republicans would support coming to a resolution this week. But what Democrats “don’t seem to understand is that their numbers are going down too, just not as steeply as Republicans, so they’re not getting out of this unscathed,” McCain said on Tuesday. “They have the clear advantage, but I can tell you this, from being around here for a long time, what goes around, comes around.”