Oct. 4, 2013, 9:47 a.m. EDTGOP begins search for broad deal on budget
By Janet Hook and Patrick O'Connor
WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — Senior Republicans in Congress, frustrated over their inability to strike a deal to reopen the government, began shifting from their drive to undercut the 2010 health-care law, which has been the central element of the dispute, toward a broader budget deal.
The new focus comes as Congress is beginning to confront the need to raise the U.S. debt ceiling, which the Treasury said must be done this month in order to pay the nation’s obligations. With federal agencies largely shuttered for a third day, some GOP lawmakers were exploring whether the political stalemate over funding the government could best be resolved by crafting a broader fiscal package that would include an increase in the debt ceiling.
House Speaker John Boehner, (R., Ohio), on Thursday signaled he would follow that course. He told a group of his closest allies over lunch that he doesn’t want to broker a deal to fund federal agencies and reopen the government only to face an immediate negotiation over raising the debt ceiling, participants said. The speaker expressed optimism at the lunch that he might be able to combine the two issues to embark on broader budget negotiations with the White House and Senate Democrats.
Meanwhile, some House Democrats also sought to pressure their leaders to take additional steps to reopen the government. A group publicly endorsed repealing the health-care law’s tax on medical devices — a long-held Republican priority — as a way out of the budget battle. The idea was quickly rejected by Democratic leaders but signaled lawmakers’ growing frustration with the stalemate.
President Barack Obama has said that he won’t negotiate terms for raising the debt ceiling---that Congress must pass it with no conditions — but Republicans have said they won’t back an increase unless deficit-reduction measures or other GOP policy goals are included. That has raised concerns that lawmakers and the president wouldn’t come to an agreement in time to avoid dangerous financial and economic consequences.
Late Thursday, Obama canceled a planned trip to Asia because of the government shutdown, the White House said. The president had been scheduled to visit Indonesia and Brunei to participate in two regional summits. Earlier in the week he had called off stops in Malaysia and the Philippines.
In recent days, Boehner has been talking with Republican House members about raising the debt ceiling, insisting to them it must be done. By taking that stance, he has raised questions about how much leverage he could take into negotiations — should any materialize — with Democrats over the debt ceiling.