White House Rejects House Offer; Hope for Fiscal Deal Now Lies in Senate

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) leaves the U.S. Capitol for a meeting with House Republican leaders and U.S. President Barack Obama October 10, 2013 in Washington, DC. 
National Journal
Michael Catalin Tim Alberta and Billy House
Oct. 12, 2013, 7:52 a.m.

House Re­pub­lic­ans threw up their hands in frus­tra­tion Sat­urday, say­ing com­mu­nic­a­tion has broken down with Pres­id­ent Obama in the ef­fort to re­solve the debt-ceil­ing crisis and the gov­ern­ment shut­down.

Resigned that hope for White House ne­go­ti­ations now lies with the Sen­ate, some House Re­pub­lic­ans even left Wash­ing­ton for the rest of the week­end.

“Ba­sic­ally, there is no deal with the House. This is all now with the Sen­ate,” said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y.

King said that House Speak­er John Boehner, R-Ohio, de­livered that mes­sage dur­ing a closed-door House GOP meet­ing Sat­urday morn­ing. “He said he hopes the Sen­ate stands firm — whatever that means,” King said.

Many House Re­pub­lic­ans were openly angry fol­low­ing Sat­urday morn­ing’s meet­ing. They ac­cused the White House of not only mis­lead­ing House Re­pub­lic­ans, but of pit­ting House and Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans against one an­oth­er.

Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., who also said the most re­cent House Re­pub­lic­an of­fer had fallen through, de­scribed it as “a short-term debt lim­it ex­ten­sion with a budget pro­cess, and spe­cif­ic ne­go­ti­ations on re­open­ing the gov­ern­ment.”

But Obama in­formed Boehner last night that he wasn’t in­ter­ested.

In the Sen­ate, talks are in the hands of Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id and Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell. “At the end of the day, what we all are sup­port­ing is the ef­fort that’s un­der way between Sen­at­or Mc­Con­nell and Re­id,” said Sen. Bob Cork­er, R-Tenn.

In the House, many of the Re­pub­lic­ans leav­ing the Sat­urday meet­ing said they were angry or dis­ap­poin­ted, but many also re­mained hope­ful a deal can be worked out, at least to tem­por­ar­ily ex­tend the na­tion’s abil­ity to bor­row, by early next week. The ad­min­is­tra­tion has giv­en Oct. 17 — this Thursday — as the dead­line for Con­gress to act be­fore the United States de­faults on its debt.

The Sen­ate is sched­uled to hold a pro­ced­ur­al vote Sat­urday af­ter­noon on le­gis­la­tion that would lift the debt lim­it through the end of 2014 without any con­di­tions. The meas­ure is ex­pec­ted to fail, as Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans plan to block it and con­tin­ue ne­go­ti­at­ing with the White House on an­oth­er ap­proach to re­open the gov­ern­ment and raise the debt ceil­ing in ex­change for an ar­ray of policy con­ces­sions.

Rep. Steve Scal­ise, R-La., chair­man of the Re­pub­lic­an Study Com­mit­tee, a group of 175 House con­ser­vat­ives, said he could not pre­dict wheth­er the House GOP would back any deal put to­geth­er in part by Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans. “I haven’t seen any plan out of the Sen­ate or the White House that starts ad­dress­ing our prob­lems,” Scal­ise said.

Leav­ing the meet­ing, many rank-and-file Re­pub­lic­ans dir­ec­ted their ire at the White House rather than Boehner, who law­makers in at­tend­ance said flashed ob­vi­ous ir­rit­a­tion with Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans dur­ing Sat­urday’s meet­ing.

“The chal­lenge that we have here, very simply, is that the Re­pub­lic­ans have con­trol of the House, the Demo­crats have con­trol of the Sen­ate, the White House and the me­dia,” said Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ar­iz. “The equa­tion there is very asym­met­ric one for House lead­er­ship.”

“I’m con­vinced that, giv­en that equa­tion, that we’re do­ing the best we can,” Franks said. “And there’s a fifth is­sue — and that [is] we’re deal­ing with a pres­id­ent who un­for­tu­nately doesn’t hold him­self “¦ to the truth or his own word. That’s my con­vic­tion.”

Rep. Raul Lab­rador, R-Idaho, said, “I haven’t been more proud of my lead­er­ship than I’ve been over the last three weeks. I think they’re hold­ing strong and they feel that the Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans are un­der­min­ing their ne­go­ti­ations.”

Said Price: “I’m just astoun­ded that the pres­id­ent can’t take yes for an an­swer. It really is re­mark­able that he re­fuses to ac­cept ba­sic­ally what was his of­fer ini­tially. So we’ll see. Hope­fully he’ll wake up this morn­ing a little smarter and a little more ob­ser­v­ant of what has ac­tu­ally been pro­posed.”

Mean­while, oth­ers said they were go­ing home to their dis­tricts un­til the House is sched­uled to re­turn to ses­sion on Monday, sub­ject to a call­back from House lead­ers.

“I have not seen my 2-year-old for two weeks,” said fresh­man Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla.

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