With leadership unable to find their way out of the government shutdown, some of the rank and file are giving it a go themselves.
Rep. Ron Kind of Wisconsin, chairman of the fiscally moderate New Democrat Coalition, and Rep. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, a leading GOP moderate, are mobilizing colleagues around a compromise government spending bill that would fund the government for six months at sequester levels and include as a sweetener a repeal of the medical device tax in Obamacare.
According to a source, it also might include as a “pay-for” an extension of the pension stabilization provision that was included in the transportation authorization bill passed by the Senate in June 2012 — a provision that has support from the Business Roundtable and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Attendees at a Thursday press conference included Democrats Daniel Lipinski of Illinois, Ron Barber of Arizona, Jim Matheson of Utah, Jared Polis of Colorado, Jim Cooper of Tennessee and Kurt Schrader of Oregon.
Republicans present included Chris Gibson of New York, New Jersey Reps. Jon Runyan and Leonard Lance, and Pennsylvania Reps. Lou Barletta, Jim Gerlach, Patrick Meehan and Michael G. Fitzpatrick.
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., told a scrum of reporters later on Thursday that he had also signed onto the bill: “I think it’s a very good and creative idea,” he said, adding that it was not the only proposal he was willing to support.
A media event showing Democrats and Republicans working together provides a good visual in an increasingly polarized political environment. It also took place as momentum continues to grow around a group of nearly 20 Republicans who have said they are ready for Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, to bring a “clean” CR to the floor for a vote.
The bill would allow Boehner and the GOP to claim at least a small Obamacare scalp, but there’s no sign yet it could go anywhere.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said at her weekly media briefing that the measure funds the government at sequester levels for too long a stretch of time to be sustainable. And Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and the White House have made clear they will not allow anything Obamacare-related on the CR.
The No. 2 Senate Democrat, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, supports repealing the medical device tax but has said a repeal should be negotiated separately and offset so that it does not add to the deficit.
“We continue to search for a bipartisan solution, and I think there is growing momentum behind the idea that we should just vote to keep the government open and then separately negotiate all the budget issues,” said Budget ranking member Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.
The Washington Examiner reported on Thursday evening that Van Hollen had been huddling outside the House chamber with moderate Republicans to discuss what the “appetite” might be for bipartisan compromise.
In an interview with CQ Roll Call, Van Hollen downplayed the significance: “There are a number of Republicans who have openly expressed their displeasure at what’s happening here right now. All we’ve said is we’re open to exploring different ideas with them.”