Senate Democrats deliver a blow to debt compromise
by David Espo, AP Special Correspondent
October 11, 2013 12:52 AM | 1756 views | 6 6 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) emerges from a closed-door GOP meeting to announce that House Republicans will advance legislation to temporarily extend the government’s ability to borrow money to meet its financial obligations, at the Capitol in Washington on Thursday. <br>The Associated Press
Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) emerges from a closed-door GOP meeting to announce that House Republicans will advance legislation to temporarily extend the government’s ability to borrow money to meet its financial obligations, at the Capitol in Washington on Thursday.
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Urgent efforts to prevent an economy-tanking national default rose and then retreated with astonishing swiftness Thursday, as House Republicans softened their long-standing demands and the White House appeared agreeable to a compromise, only for Senate Democrats to declare it unacceptable.

“Not going to happen,” declared Majority Leader Harry Reid, standing outside the White House after he and fellow Democrats met with President Barack Obama. Reid referred to a Republican plan to leave the 10-day partial government shutdown in place while raising the nation’s $16.7 trillion debt limit and triggering negotiations between the GOP and Obama over spending cuts and other issues.

The up-and-down day coincided with a dour warning from Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, who told lawmakers the prospect of default had already caused interest rates to rise — and that worse lay ahead.

Appearing before the Senate Finance Committee, Lew said the Treasury must pay Social Security and veterans benefits as well as salaries to active duty military troops during the second half of this month. He said failure to raise the debt limit by Oct. 17 “could put timely payment of all of these at risk.”

House Speaker John Boehner led a delegation of fellow Republicans to the White House for a late-afternoon meeting with Obama as the two sides groped for a way out of the latest in a string of crises.

“I would hope the president would look at this as an opportunity and a good faith effort on our part to move halfway, halfway to what he’s demanded, in order to have these conversations begin,” Boehner, (R-Ohio) told reporters earlier in the day.

He spoke after informing his rank and file that he intends to bring legislation to the floor as early as Friday to let the Treasury borrow freely until Nov. 22, contingent on Obama’s agreement to open talks on legislation to reopen the government and discuss other pressing issues.

That would leave in effect the partial government shutdown, in its 10th day Thursday, that has idled 350,000 federal workers but so far has not produced the type of widespread economic hardship that a default might mean.

Some tea party-aligned lawmakers claimed partial credit for the GOP retreat, casting it as a way of finessing one problem so they could quickly resume their own campaign to deny operating funds for the national health care overhaul known as “Obamacare.”

At the White House, spokesman Jay Carney told reporters the president would “likely sign” a short-term extension in the debt ceiling, and did not rule out his doing so even if it left the shutdown intact.

Ironically, Boehner’s plan stirred grumbling among relatively moderate Republicans who said the shutdown should end, but little if any unhappiness among the staunch conservatives who often part company with party leaders.

One Republican said he and fellow tea party allies deserved at least partial recognition for the plan that would raise the debt limit without reopening the government.

“I actually went to (Majority Leader) Eric Cantor a couple days ago and I proposed this. I said, ‘You’re going to think this is crazy but I, as a conservative, would be willing to vote for a debt ceiling for six weeks.,” said Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho.

Additionally, Sen. Ted Cruz, the conservative Texan who has played a prominent role in this fall’s budget struggles, raised no objections.

Interviewed on radio KFYO in Lubbock, Texas, he said, “My understanding is this is being driven by House conservatives who are quite reasonably saying, ‘Listen, let’s focus on Obamacare, on winning the fight on Obamacare ... and let’s push the debt ceiling a little further down the road so that it doesn’t distract us from the fight we are in the middle of right now.”

For his part, Reid has proposed no-strings-attached legislation to raise the debt limit by $1.1 trillion, enough to prevent a recurrence of the current standoff until after the 2014 elections.

In remarks on the Senate floor during the day, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the GOP leader, said that Democratic measure “just won’t fly. ... The American people can be persuaded to raise the debt ceiling, but they’re not in any mood to simply hand over a blank check.”

Since the current standoff began more than two weeks ago, Republican demands have shifted continuously, while the president’s position has remained essentially unchanged.

The shutdown began on Oct. 1 after Obama ruled out any concessions that would defund, delay or otherwise change the new health care law. He said he would be willing to negotiate on a range of issues, but only after the shutdown was ended and the debt limit raised.

For their part, Republicans drafted a long list of demands to accompany any increase in the debt limit, including some that would raise the cost of Medicare for better-off beneficiaries, make changes to the health care law and roll back several environmental regulations either issued or in the planning stages by the administration.

In recent days, the focus has shifted from the shutdown to the threat of default, and Republicans have spoken less and less frequently about insisting on concessions in the health care law.

The call for negotiations on long-term deficit cuts would mark a return to basics for the House Republican majority.

Shortly after taking control in 2011, the rank and file initiated a series of demands to cut spending, culminating in an agreement with Obama that cut more than $2 trillion over a decade.

About half of that is the result of painful across-the-board cuts that both parties have reason to review in any upcoming negotiations — Republicans because of the impact on the Pentagon, and Democrats for the reductions in domestic programs.

After four years of trillion-dollar deficits, the 2013 shortfall is expected to register below $700 billion.

At the same time, the nation’s debt rises inexorably. It was $10.6 trillion when Obama took office during the worst recession in decades, and has grown by $6.1 trillion in the years since.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Lib in Cobb
October 14, 2013
@Say What: I don't know the size of the poll conducted by The Wall Street General. I do know that many polls conducted by conservative, liberal and non-partisan groups have had similar results. I will also mention that many Republican members of Congress have said it was a stupid effort to attempt to tie a new budget to The Affordable Care Act.

The Affordable Care Act was written and passed by a democratically elected congress, then signed by a democratically elected president. That act then withstood a Supreme Court test. None of that was good enough for the GOP/Tea Party dominated House.
Lib in Cobb
October 14, 2013
We now see the whacko birds of The House moving away from The Affordable Care Act, because these dopes have finally determined it was a no win situation after the 40 votes losing votes. Just how much time and money did they waste on this insane effort. Please remember this is a REPUBLICAN dominated House of Representatives. These folks were whipped into a frenzy by Mike Lee and Ted "Not Born in The US" Cruz. Oh yeah, the GOP is in fine shape to lead us.
Dems refusal
October 14, 2013
The democrats want a blank check to continue to put us in more debt. The republicans are trying to save this country and the democrats continue to push for no budget. Are you kidding me? The White House refuses to give numbers of how many people can actually sign up for Obamacare because everyone is finding out they still can't afford insurance. Both parties are to blame because the house never should have agreed to Obamacare which people are quickly discovering is a total bust!
Say What?
October 12, 2013
Wow thanks for posting results of a poll of about 500 people. Glad they speak for you! Also glad you think it is important to blame someone. All of us are losing. Both Republicans and Democrats.
Lib in Cobb
October 11, 2013
The GOP will be the first party of any consequence to legislate their way into obscurity.

Perhaps former governor Roy Barnes was correct when he said to me, "GA will be a blue state in ten years".

In a recent poll 53% blame the GOP for the current problem, 31% blame President Obama.
Independent in Cobb
October 11, 2013
A recent poll? Polls lean toward whichever side gathered the numbers, so they mean absolutely nothing. I did a poll and it blamed the President, the GOP and Democrats 100%. Trying to declare which one is more to blame is like disecting dung in an effort to identify which agent stinks the most. As for Roy Barnes, I think he probably meant to say he hasn't been the governor for 10 years because the color doesn't really change our current state. Whether RED or BLUE, you're equally screwed. Put that on a bumper sticker.
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