Will the Senate Deal-Makers Reach a Deal?

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Posted October 12, 2013 at 11:25am

Attention turned back across the Rotunda to the Senate after House Republicans indicated their efforts to reach a deal with the White House to avert a debt default and reopen the government had broken down.

While no agreement appeared imminent, senators in both parties have been saying the current standoff must end. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., opened the Senate by making a reference to the outcome of Saturday morning’s House GOP Conference meeting.

“They walked out of another meeting … defiant,” Reid said. “While this uncertainty is bad, I repeat, default is just unthinkably worse.”

“Time’s running out,” Reid said to Senate Republicans, praising efforts of some GOP senators, specifically citing John McCain of Arizona.

Reid said he thought it was a good thing that Monday happens to be Columbus Day, which is a federal holiday.

In an interview with the Lexington Herald-Leader, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell sounded like a willing deal-maker.

The Kentucky Republican said that in his view “it’s time to get the government back to work and to begin to solve some of the seemingly intractable problems the country has.”

“I’ve fully demonstrated that as much as I would rather have a Republican president and would rather be the majority leader of the Senate, I’m willing to work with the government we have — not the one I wish we had,” McConnell said.

A gang of 10 senators — five from each party — was said to be having discussions about how to craft a bipartisan deal based on a proposal floated by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.

In a statement late Friday, Collins noted that GOP Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska had joined her proposal, parts of which could be untenable for Democrats.

“The President listened carefully but certainly did not endorse any proposals put forth,” Collins said of Friday’s White House meeting. “I will continue to work closely with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to forge a plan the two sides can agree on so that we can reopen our government and avert a default on our nation’s debt.”

Members of the House GOP seem skeptical of, if not outright hostile to, Senate GOP attempts to cut a deal with Democrats and the White House. House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, for instance, called the Collins measure the “Obama-Collins bill.”

The clear presence of bipartisan talks made a noon procedural vote on a measure proposed by Reid and Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., essentially a moot point, with it widely expected to be swiftly rejected.

That plan would turn off the debt ceiling until the beginning of 2015. That’s estimated to allow for more than $1 trillion in additional borrowing. Republicans are expected to almost uniformly oppose that measure, including the vote to limit debate on the motion to proceed.