A brawl over the debt limit is starting in Congress without an end to the government shutdown, and there are few signs of a swift resolution for either issue. Many Republicans are dismissing warnings from Democrats about the consequences of breaching the ceiling and are continuing to seek concessions on federal spending.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is expected to introduce a bill Tuesday that would raise the debt limit through the 2014 midterm elections, according to Democratic Senate aides. A procedural vote on the motion could come Friday or Saturday, according to a Senate Democratic aide.
In the House, Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has said he doesn't intend to let the country default. But he's also said that the Republican-controlled chamber does not have enough votes to pass a "clean" debt-ceiling bill.
In other words, House Republicans continue to insist that any increase in the nation's borrowing limit must be packaged with other provisions sought by the GOP majority.
Boehner and his conference are set to meet behind closed doors at the Capitol on Tuesday.
Senate Republicans have, as they have signaled for months, begun sketching what they want in return for supporting a higher debt limit, including entitlement reforms, spending cuts, and changes in Obamacare.
"We've got to get some reforms, and this is the logical place to do it because it's like going to the bank to borrow money," said Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D. "When you go to the bank [the banker] says, "˜OK, how are you going to make adjustments so you don't have to keep borrowing?' "
Republicans are confident that they can negotiate something in exchange for a ceiling hike, feeling certain Reid won't be able to get the six GOP senators he'll need to reach 60 votes — and that's assuming all Democrats vote with the majority leader.
"I just don't think he's going to get his clean debt ceiling," said Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.
But Democrats are skeptical that Republicans would risk taking on the possible blame if the country flirts with a first-ever default on its debt.
"It's one thing to say you have leverage. It's another thing to use it," said Sen. Christopher Coons, D-Del. "All I'm trying to convey is that I think there are enough folks who recognize that to seriously contemplate using it means risking miscalculation and risking serious harm to our economy."
Democrats were hesitant to talk about the details of Reid's bill since it had not yet been introduced, but they did suggest such a bill could surpass the 60-vote threshold.
"At this point, certainly the responsible thing to do is pay our bills," said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. "Certainly we have Republican colleagues that understand that."
There were mixed signals Monday on whether House GOP leaders might press ahead this week with another version of their own debt-ceiling bill. Some aides to Boehner said they were unaware of any plan to do so, while others said they expected it to occur later in the week.