Democratic and Republican senators do not agree on much, but they do share a belief that the shutdown stalemate will spill over into the debt-ceiling debate, with the likelihood that the government will stay shuttered until the Treasury Department reaches its borrowing limit in mid-October.
“I think having them together is a good thing, because who wants to go through it again?” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. “With debt ceiling it’s triply, it’s 20 times as dangerous — as bad as shutting the government down is.”
Senate Republicans say the issues have become fused and realize that they could have more leverage in the debate over federal spending as the government gets closer to reaching the debt ceiling, now projected to be on Oct. 17.
“I think almost everyone acknowledges that the two issues for all intents and purposes have become merged,” said Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss. “Why would anyone make a deal on one aspect and then get right back down to the brink?”
As to how the parties resolve the stalemate, lawmakers have been discussing a so-called grand bargain, but there’s little hope that the White House and Congress could reach common ground on such a deal, having failed at it before.
“It gets now into debt limit,” said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. “So it almost argues for a grand bargain, but that approach has failed so many times that one can’t have a lot of optimism about it. So we’re in a very tough situation. No doubt about it.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., does not publicly see things as so complicated, holding firm that before he’ll negotiate on anything in a conference, House Republicans must pass the Senate’s continuing resolution with no strings attached.
“Let the House stop those irresponsible, reckless games and just reopen the government,” Reid said.
Senate Democrats have also begun arguing that a “clean” bill to raise the debt ceiling should be considered along with a clean CR. Previously they have said they would deal with the debt ceiling once it got closer.
Asked whether Democrats want the House to pass a CR and a clean debt-limit increase together, Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., said it was critical for Republicans to “open up the government.” But she agreed that the two issues would coincide.
“The timing is here,” Murray said. “Debt limit is 10 days, eight days away, whatever it is.”
Democrats are hoping that by taking a stand on the shutdown, they’re sending a clear signal to Republicans to back down over the debt limit.
“The hope is maybe once the tea party has realized it’s not getting its way on shutting down the government that they won’t try the same stunt on the debt ceiling,” Schumer said.
But Republicans want the president and Democrats to negotiate now. The path to opening government and raising the debt limit, the thinking goes, is for each side to have something at stake. That’s not the dynamic now, they say.
“But I don’t think you get a grand bargain or anything that resembles it unless you got a president at the table, you got bicameral leadership at the table, and everybody’s gonna walk away with something that they wanted and something that they didn’t want,” said Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C.
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