Senate Republicans emerged from a more than 90-minute meeting with President Obama on Friday more bullish than they have been in recent days on the chances to end the government shutdown, now in its eleventh day, and avoid breaching the nation’s debt limit next week.
In the meeting, lawmakers said that Sen. Susan Collins, the moderate Republican from Maine, presented to Obama a plan that would lift the debt limit until the end of January and keep the government operating for six months. Lawmakers would then use that time to craft a broader fiscal agreement.
“He seems open to some of the suggestions that I made,” Collins said.
Her package, as presented, would also include the rolling back of a tax on medical devices that helps fund the president’s health care law. Obama did not embrace the package but numerous Republicans, including Collins, said the conversation was “constructive.”
Other Republican senators have suggested different lengths of time for both the debt limit and government operations, but they broadly agreed that talks were on track toward a solution, perhaps for the first time since the crisis began.
“I think we’re on a pretty good course right now — I do,” said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., after the meeting.
Broadly speaking, multiple Republicans said they were encouraged the negotiations had shifted from dismantling the health care law to addressing fiscal matters.
“He feels very strongly about the Affordable Care Act,” said Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb, “and he’s not going to give on that.”
Instead, Republicans hope to use the short-term debt-limit increase to negotiate a broader package of changes to entitlement programs.
Traps remain. Collins noted that Obama — who has declared definitively that he refuses to negotiate over reopening the government and lifting the debt limit — seemed reticent to package those items with anything else.
“It seems to be one of timing for him,” Collins said. “The problem is if you don’t put it all together in one plan I don’t know that we will be able to get sufficient support to reopen government and to extend the debt limit. That’s why I think it’s better to combine them in one plan.”
Not all Republicans were encouraged. “I’m not sure that it had any major material effect one way or the other,” said Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa.
And Sen. John Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, was hardly positive. In a prepared statement, he said “what could have been a productive conversation was instead another predictable lecture from the president that did not lay out a new path forward.”
What We're Following See More »
As the Russia investigation heats up, "the role of Marc E. Kasowitz, the president’s longtime New York lawyer, will be significantly reduced. Mr. Trump liked Mr. Kasowitz’s blunt, aggressive style, but he was not a natural fit in the delicate, politically charged criminal investigation. The veteran Washington defense lawyer John Dowd will take the lead in representing Mr. Trump for the Russia inquiry."
President Trump's attorneys are "actively compiling a list of Mueller’s alleged potential conflicts of interest, which they say could serve as a way to stymie his work." They plan to argued that Mueller is going outside the scope of his investigation, in inquiring into Trump's finances. They're also playing small ball, highlighting "donations to Democrats by some of" Mueller's team, and "an allegation that Mueller and Trump National Golf Club in Northern Virginia had a dispute over membership fees when Mueller resigned as a member in 2011." Trump is said to be incensed that Mueller may see his tax returns, and has been asking about his power to pardon his family members.
In addition to ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, Robert Mueller's team is also "examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe. FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said. The investigation also has absorbed a money-laundering probe begun by federal prosecutors in New York into Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort."
Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team is "is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates", including "Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008."
"A Senate bill to gut Obamacare would increase the number of uninsured people by 32 million and double premiums on Obamacare's exchanges by 2026, according to an analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The analysis is of a bill that passed Congress in 2015 that would repeal Obamacare's taxes and some of the mandates. Republicans intend to leave Obamacare in place for two years while a replacement is crafted and implemented."