With talks between GOP House leadership and the White House over reopening government and extending the debt limit broken down, Senate Democratic and Republican leaders are now for the first time discussing a path beyond the impasse.
With the blessing of their members, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell began talking in the last 24 hours to try to work out a deal that could also pass the House.
Senate Democrats rejected a plan modeled on Sen. Susan Collins’ suggestion, which recently gained momentum in the Senate and included a six-month continuing resolution to fund government and a three-month debt limit extension. Her plan would also have delayed for two years the medical device tax used in part to fund Obamacare.
Rather, the contours of the debate seem to be taking shape around the length of the continuing resolution and debt limit extension, and on what Obamacare concession Republicans might extract.
Democrats chafe at a short-term debt limit extension because it would mean another fiscal fight in the heart of the holiday buying season. They also argue for a shorter CR so they can renegotiate the topline spending figures and undo sequestration, which they view as harmful.
Republicans, on the other hand, want a shorter extension so they can pivot from this crisis, which has proved politically costly to them, to discuss spending cuts, entitlement reform and tax reform. They also want a longer continuing resolution, which would lock in the sequestration cuts gained in the 2011 Budget Control Act.
Despite the disagreements, there’s cautious optimism, now that Reid and McConnell are talking.
“There’s such a universe of possibilities out there but we haven’t quite agreed on a specific set,” Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said.
Also on Saturday, Senate Republicans blocked Reid’s debt-limit extension measure in a procedural vote, 53-45, along party lines. Reid voted against his bill for parliamentary reasons. The extension would have taken the government through the November 2014.
There was little incentive for Republican senators to vote with the majority to advance the Democratic proposal now that the leaders are discussing a path forward.
But the vote gave senators an opportunity to further their talks as members fraternized on the Senate floor. For example, McConnell and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the No. 3 Senate Democrat, sat huddled together talking throughout much of the vote.
The talks between Reid, McConnell, Schumer and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., opened Saturday morning, with Reid describing the conversations as “extremely cordial,” and preliminary.
Senators also recognized that whatever the deal is it will need to clear the House, which has been unable to offer legislation acceptable to the Senate and the White House. But some Senate Democrats also said they are fed up with House Speaker John Boehner.
“At this point, they have dealt themselves out of this process,” Durbin said. “They cannot agree among themselves and that makes it extremely difficult to take them seriously.”
Senate Republicans sounded optimistic Saturday that such a deal was within reach and also realized the House would have little time to act given the Oct. 17 debt limit deadline.
“Hopefully we’re not wasting our time sending legislation that the House wouldn’t accept,” said Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.
What We're Following See More »
According to a new CNN poll, "37% of Americans approve of the way Trump is handling the presidency, 57% disapprove—virtually identical to his marks in late September. But the percentage who say things in the country are going well has fallen from 53% in August to 46% now."
After initially promising it in August, "President Trump said Monday that he will declare a national emergency next week to address the opioid epidemic." When asked, he also "declined to express confidence in Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.), his nominee for drug czar, in the wake of revelations that the lawmaker helped steer legislation making it harder to act against giant drug companies."
In the wake of Sunday's blockbuster 60 Minutes/Washington Post report on opioid regulation and enforcement, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) has introduced legislation that "would repeal a 2016 law that hampered the Drug Enforcement Administration’s ability to regulate opioid distributors it suspects of misconduct." In a statement, McCaskill said: “Media reports indicate that this law has significantly affected the government’s ability to crack down on opioid distributors that are failing to meet their obligations and endangering our communities."
"The United States military said on Monday that it would practice evacuating noncombatant Americans out of South Korea in the event of war and other emergencies, as the two allies began a joint naval exercise amid heightened tensions with North Korea. The evacuation drill, known as Courageous Channel, is scheduled from next Monday through Friday and is aimed at preparing American 'service members and their families to respond to a wide range of crisis management events such as noncombatant evacuation and natural or man-made disasters,' the United States military said in a statement."