October 1, 2013, 4:16 PM
Senate: Shutdown May Persist More Than Two Weeks, Brush Against Debt Ceiling
Don’t expect the government shutdown to end soon.
That was the message Tuesday from Senate Republican leaders and Democratic aides who said there is a growing likelihood that non-essential parts of the federal government remain shuttered for more than two weeks until lawmakers agree on how to increase the debt ceiling.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) and one of his top lieutenants, Sen. John Thune (R., S.D.), both said Tuesday that while they would like to agree on a short-term funding measure before pivoting to the debt ceiling, they believed that the shutdown could very well last until the government is faced with raising or suspending the debt ceiling later this month.
“I’d like to resolve the current issue before we move on to the debt limit, but it’s not clear to me when that gets resolved,” Mr. McConnell said at a press conference after a closed door meeting of Senate Republicans, hours after the shutdown began.
Mr. Thune, a member of the Senate GOP leadership team, said Democrats would like to see the shutdown continue until the debt ceiling is increased. He said he’d prefer to deal with the short-term government funding question separately than the debt ceiling.
Two top Senate Democratic aides also said they thought the two issues would end up dovetailing together, saying that from their perspective the next move was up to House Republicans. Democrats are unlikely to negotiate with Republicans over a short-term government funding bill, so the delay will continue until House Republicans agree to take up a Senate-passed six-week funding bill, the aides said.
“It’s increasingly likely that the two get done together,” one of the aides said. If much of the federal government hadn’t shut down on Tuesday morning and the Senate were in session on Tuesday, senators would likely already be debating the debt ceiling increase, one of the Democratic aides said.
Non-essential parts of the federal government ground to a halt on Tuesday after lawmakers failed to reach agreement on a measure to temporarily extend funding past the Sept. 30 end of the government’s fiscal year.
The House and Senate were in agreement that the current government funding levels should continue, but House Republicans continued to insist that some delay or changes to the health care law must be included. Democrats reject such changes, voting down attempts by Republicans to add such changes on Monday.
The country’s statutory borrowing limit must be increased by about Oct. 17 in order to ensure the Treasury can continue to meet all of its obligations. A short-term partial government shutdown would not impact the timing of the U.S. government’s need to raise or suspend the debt ceiling in a “material way,” a Treasury Department official said Tuesday
President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) have said they won’t negotiate on the debt ceiling.