Congress Closes In on a Deal

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 14: (L-R) U.S. Senate Minority Whip Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) walk from McConnell's office to the Senate Chamber on October 14, 2013 in Washington, DC. As Democratic and Republican leaders negotiate an end to the shutdown and a way to raise the debt limit, the White House postponed a planned Monday afternoon meeting with Boehner and other Congressional leaders. The government shutdown is currently in its 14th day. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
National Journal
Billy House Elahe Izadi
Oct. 14, 2013, 4:52 p.m.

With a wary eye to­ward po­ten­tial tur­bu­lence from House Re­pub­lic­ans, Sen­ate lead­ers are seek­ing to fi­nal­ize a deal to raise the debt ceil­ing and end the gov­ern­ment shut­down in a way that could re­ceive strong bi­par­tis­an sup­port in the Sen­ate.

“Per­haps to­mor­row will be a bright day. We hope it will be,” Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id said Monday night on the Sen­ate floor.

Ad­ded Sen­ate Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell: “I think it’s safe to say we’ve made sub­stan­tial pro­gress.”

Such op­tim­ism promp­ted a post­pone­ment earli­er Monday of a planned meet­ing of con­gres­sion­al lead­ers — in­clud­ing House Speak­er John Boehner and House Minor­ity Lead­er Nancy Pelosi — with Pres­id­ent Obama at the White House.

With just three days un­til the gov­ern­ment would reach the lim­it on its bor­row­ing au­thor­ity, the news Monday from the two long­time polit­ic­al foes was re­ceived pos­it­ively in the mar­kets, with the Dow Jones spik­ing by about 30 points.

Of course, any deal would have to win ap­prov­al of not only Obama, but the Re­pub­lic­an-led House, where con­ser­vat­ive hard-liners have been push­ing for con­ces­sions on the Af­ford­able Care Act to re­start gov­ern­ment fund­ing.

As of early Monday even­ing, it was un­clear wheth­er any anti-Obama­care meas­ures would be in­cluded in the emer­ging deal, though at least two pro­pos­als were be­ing dis­cussed. Some grumbling was already emer­ging from House con­ser­vat­ives. “Re­id says this is go­ing to pass the Sen­ate? We’ll see,” said Rep. Tim Huel­skamp, R-Kan. He said that with “98 or 99 per­cent of Obama­care” left in place, “I don’t see how that will pass over here” in the House.

As the de­tails were still be­ing fi­nal­ized, one source said that it looked like the deal would re­open the gov­ern­ment un­til Jan. 15 and raise the debt lim­it un­til Feb. 7. The agree­ment also would dir­ect an im­me­di­ate bicam­er­al con­fer­ence on the budget and on a long-term tax and spend­ing plan, with the con­fer­ees hav­ing to re­port by Dec. 13. That is sig­ni­fic­ant be­cause the next round of so-called se­quester cuts are to kick in in early Janu­ary. Pre­sum­ably, one of the first tasks of the con­fer­ees would be to re­com­mend wheth­er those cuts should be res­cin­ded, as Demo­crats in the Sen­ate want, or go ahead as sched­uled.

Off the table as of late Monday even­ing was a delay or re­peal of the med­ic­al-device ex­cise tax which helps fund com­pon­ents of the Af­ford­able Care Act.

But an­oth­er GOP-pushed meas­ure, to re­quire tight­er in­come-veri­fic­a­tion stand­ards for people who re­ceive sub­sidies un­der the new health care law, ap­par­ently was part of the deal. Sources also said an agree­ment could in­clude a one-year delay of the re­in­sur­ance tax tied to Obama­care, which em­ploy­ers pay.

Some House Re­pub­lic­ans have said their con­fer­ence, not want­ing to get pinned down on a deal hashed out in the Sen­ate with little time left be­fore Thursday’s debt-ceil­ing dead­line, might un­veil their own new plan this week. But as of Monday, said seni­or aides, no new coun­ter­pro­pos­al had been pre­pared. It re­mained un­clear if Boehner would put such a Sen­ate deal on the House floor if a ma­jor­ity of his rank-and-file Re­pub­lic­ans op­posed it.

Sen. Bob Cork­er, R-Tenn., said he didn’t ex­pect a deal to come com­pletely to­geth­er un­til Wed­nes­day. He also said it is still un­clear wheth­er the deal, pro­ced­ur­ally, would ori­gin­ate from the House or the Sen­ate.

Cork­er said there wer­en’t “ma­jor points of con­ten­tion, it just isn’t fully baked yet.”

“We wasted two months, we could have been build­ing to­ward the kind of spend­ing re­forms, man­dat­ory spend­ing re­forms that are good for our na­tion,” he ad­ded. Then, in a ref­er­ence to the tar­get­ing of Obama­care, he said, “So we’ve ba­sic­ally blown the last two months with some of our mem­bers and a lot of the House fo­cused on a shiny ob­ject that was nev­er go­ing to hap­pen.”

“I think both lead­ers on the Sen­ate side are work­ing to­ward a strong out­come,” said Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.

“You def­in­itely want 65-plus votes, you’d like to have that,” Manchin said of what might be needed in a Sen­ate vote. “A good, strong out­come helps them a lot. I think it helps Speak­er Boehner also.”

Manchin ad­ded: “I think the biggest thing we have come out of this whole thing, hope­fully, is the man­dat­ory budget con­fer­ees — get the budget con­fer­ence sit­ting down and do­ing the job it’s sup­posed to do.”

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said he wouldn’t seek to block the agree­ment emer­ging out of the Sen­ate. “I think we need to get an agree­ment and open gov­ern­ment back up.”

A meet­ing of Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans sched­uled for late Monday was post­poned un­til Tues­day morn­ing, as ne­go­ti­ations con­tin­ued.

Sen. John Mc­Cain, R-Ar­iz., noted that the con­tours of the deal are sim­il­ar to the bi­par­tis­an pro­pos­al brokered by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. He said he would like to see the med­ic­al-device tax delayed for a couple of years or re­pealed, but was just speak­ing to what he would like to see.

He also pre­dicted that Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans will rally around the deal. When asked why, Mc­Cain pulled out a piece of pa­per de­tail­ing res­ults of a new ABC News/Wash­ing­ton Post poll, and read aloud: ” ‘A new high of 74 per­cent of Amer­ic­ans dis­ap­prove of the way Re­pub­lic­ans here in the Con­gress are hand­ling Wash­ing­ton’s budget crisis.’ That’s why,” Mc­Cain said.

Though House Re­pub­lic­ans have re­jec­ted oth­er items re­cently passed by the Sen­ate with strong bi­par­tis­an sup­port, Manchin noted that “there’s a little bit more at stake right now.”

Boehner was kept up­dated by Mc­Con­nell on the dis­cus­sions with Re­id. The speak­er later called in oth­er top House GOP lead­ers to his of­fice for talks. A meet­ing with the full House GOP mem­ber­ship is set for Tues­day morn­ing.

What We're Following See More »
UTAH REPUBLICAN
Former Sen. Bob Bennett Dies at 82
3 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Former Utah Republican Sen. Bob Bennett died of pancreatic cancer on Wednesday after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. Bennett was defeated in a primary in 2010 by Tea Party–backed Mike Lee.

Source:
CLINTON HERSELF COULD TESTIFY LATER
Judge Approves Deposition of Clinton Aides
3 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, approved a joint proposal presented by Judicial Watch and the State Department to take the depositions of officials" involved in the setup and use of Hillary Clinton's private email server, "including Cheryl D. Mills, Clinton's former chief of staff, Huma Abedin, a senior adviser to Clinton, and Bryan Pagliano, a State Department employee who serviced and maintained the server." He said Clinton could be deposed later on, though that may not be necessary.

Source:
‘WORLD CLASS’ ORGANIZATION
Trump Will Not Self Fund the General Election
3 hours ago
THE LATEST

Donald Trump will not self-finance his general election campaign as he did the primary season, instead relying on "his expansive personal Rolodex" to create what he called a “world-class finance organization." 

Source:
STATE HAS UNTIL MONDAY TO RESPOND
DOJ: North Carolina’s CB2 Violates Civil Rights Act
4 hours ago
THE LATEST

Department of Justice officials told North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory that "the law violates the U.S. Civil Rights Act and Title IX—a finding that could jeopardize billions in federal education funding. The department gave state officials until Monday to respond 'by confirming that the State will not comply with or implement HB2.'"

Source:
GOOGLE SEARCHES SPIKE
Libertarians Getting a Second Look?
18 hours ago
WHY WE CARE
×