House Republicans were in a holding pattern Friday, awaiting a response from the Obama administration to a proposal to lift the debt ceiling, end the government shutdown and set up six weeks of budget talks.
The offer comes on the 11th day of the government shutdown.
In addition to ending the shutdown and increasing the debt limit, the proposal includes an easing of the across-the-board spending cuts that began taking effect a year ago, and replacing them with curbs in benefit programs that Obama himself has backed, according to the Associated Press.
Among them is a plan to raise the cost of Medicare for better-off beneficiaries.
Government could be reopened as soon as next week if a framework for this process is agreed to.
But the White House isn’t celebrating just yet.
President Obama knows a premature celebration could cause a backlash among Republicans whose votes will be needed and partly because the public suffered when large portions of the government closed, reports Politico.
“This was entirely predictable,” said Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., a conservative who warned Republicans not to shut down the government over Obamacare. “But at the end, everybody loses. This isn’t about some political game.”
Of course, the final details haven’t been worked out, and the progress made toward a deal on Thursday could blow up at any time.
Right now, Republicans want to fund the government through Dec. 15, and lift the debt ceiling through Nov. 20. That would open two tracks for negotiations. Appropriators will develop 2014 spending levels. And then broader fiscal talks — spearheaded by Budget Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp of Michigan and GOP leadership — would proceed alongside the debt ceiling timeline. These talks could include reforms to the tax and entitlement systems, according to Politico.
“As we have publicly stated, any House vote on a short-term debt limit bill is contingent on the White House and House Republicans agreeing to negotiations on a larger fiscal framework,” said Michael Steel, a Boehner spokesman. “There is no agreement at this point on what that framework would involve, and we don’t plan to comment on the details of these discussions.”
After meeting with Obama on Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., took to the Senate floor Friday to pan the House Republicans’ debt ceiling approach as too short and simply a bridge to another congressional “period of bedlam” around the holidays and a busy shopping season.
“They’re talking about extending the debt ceiling two months or six weeks? Please,” Reid said. “We do not believe a six-week delay … is enough to give the country what it needs.”
President Obama has said that, unless Congress acts to raise the $16.7 trillion limit by next Thursday, the nation will be at risk of default.
“Not so,” Moody’s Investors Service said in a memo dated Oct. 7 and circulated on Capitol Hill Wednesday.
Moody’s explains hitting the debt limit shouldn’t be confused with default.
“We believe the government would continue to pay interest and principal on its debt even in the event that the debt limit is not raised, leaving its creditworthiness intact,’ the memo says. ‘The debt limit restricts government expenditures to the amount of its incoming revenues; it does not prohibit the government from servicing its debt. There is no direct connection between the debt limit (actually the exhaustion of the Treasury’s extraordinary measures to raise funds) and a default.”
Senate Republicans described a high-stakes meeting with President Obama on Friday as positive, but did not announce a deal.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is helping lead the effort on the Senate side to craft an alternative proposal. Collins said she presented a plan to the White House that would fund the government for six months and raise the debt ceiling through the end of January.
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., called the meeting “constructive.”
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., was less hopeful about the state of play. He said the meeting was not very encouraging. Though Coburn said talking is better than the alternative, the senator said he “didn’t think” it helped address the debt-ceiling crisis.
According to Fox News, the Senate plane would repeal the medical device tax — an unpopular and costly provision of Obamacare that the industry decries as crippling — and include anti-fraud measures as part of the Obamacare insurance subsidies.
The plan eases off conservatives’ original demand that the health care law be defunded or delayed.
At the Values Voter Summit in Washington on Friday morning, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, rallied conservatives against Obamacare.