Republicans say shutdown deal less likely
WASHINGTON — Several Republican senators said on Sunday that a new Democratic request to increase government spending is hurting chances of a deal to end the shutdown.
Leaders of the Democratic-led Senate were dismissive of a proposal on Saturday, in part, because it kept in place for too long the automatic spending cuts that went into effect this year. Another round of those decade-long cuts — known as the sequester and approved by Congress and the White House in 2011 — is expected in January.
The Republican complaints occurred as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., spoke briefly on Sunday afternoon but failed to reach a deal to end the shutdown or find common ground that would allow Congress to approve raising the federal debt ceiling.
“Our discussions were substantive, and we'll continue those discussions,” Reid said before the Senate adjourned. “I'm optimistic about the prospects for a positive conclusion to the issues before this country today.”
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said maintaining spending cuts is the same for Republicans as maintaining the Affordable Care Act is for Democrats.
“They're all about Obama-care being the law of the land, but so's the sequester,” he said on CNN's “State of the Union.” “If we exceed that, it's a real big step in the wrong direction.”
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said House Republicans went too far in their initial proposals by trying to force repeal or delay of the health care law as part of legislation needed to keep parts of the government open when money ran out with the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. Now, he said, Senate Democrats are doing the same with their bid to end the sequester and increase spending.
“They now are overreaching,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.” “We're at status quo right now. The last 24 hours have not been good.”
Corker has been part of several groups trying to craft a larger fiscal deal in recent years, including one with the White House, but none has attracted enough bipartisan support.
“What we need to do is get this back to the middle of the road, act like adults,” he said. “Nothing is going to happen, I don't think, if it's about breaking those spending caps.”
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, repeated the same message on NBC's “Meet the Press.” “You've got to deal with the underlying problem, which is the spending problem,” he said.
Senators appeared on the talk shows on Sunday morning as all eyes turned to the Senate to find a solution to reopen the government and avoid running into the debt ceiling, which is the limit of government borrowing approved by Congress.
Senators of both parties said they believe Congress will find a compromise before Thursday, when the government is expected to hit the debt ceiling.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said on CBS' “Face the Nation” that he was “cautiously hopeful, optimistic,” but he acknowledged that the issue over spending is “one of the sticking points.”
Action moved to the Senate when talks between the White House and the Republican-led House broke down on Saturday.
The future of any compromise rests largely on Reid and McConnell. They, with Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Schumer, met on Saturday for the first time to discuss a deal.
But Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., said on ABC's “This Week” that he thinks a proposal should originate in the House.
“I'm worried a deal will come out of the Senate that a majority of Republicans in the House can't support,” he said. “I'm not going to vote for any plan that can't get a majority of Republicans in the House.”
On Saturday, the Senate considered a proposal by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, to reopen the closed parts of the government immediately with six months of funding. The debt limit would be extended through Jan. 31.
Collins' plan would delay the medical device tax that helps pay for the health-care law — a plan that has in the past won bipartisan support-and give agencies more flexibility to deal with the automatic spending cuts, which were ordered across the board when enacted.
Reid rejected the proposal, saying it is “not going to go anyplace at this stage.”
The full Senate has not voted on the plan, and some senators of both parties said that they are hopeful it could be part of a solution in the coming days. “I'm still hopeful we sparked a dialogue,” Collins said on CNN.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said on CNN that she agreed it provided “a positive framework.”
By Sunday afternoon, however, Klobuchar and five other Democratic senators issued a statement saying they're negotiating with Republicans on Collins' plan but “we do not support the proposal in its current form. There are negotiations, but there is no agreement.”