By BURGESS EVERETT, JAKE SHERMAN and JOHN BRESNAHAN | 10/11/13 9:35 AM EDT Updated: 10/11/13 7:26 PM EDT
At the end of the 11th day of a government shutdown, Republicans and Democrats are trying to figure out a way to fill federal coffers and lift the debt ceiling.
They’re hitting a few bumps along the way.
President Barack Obama told Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) he wasn’t prepared to accept the House Republican fiscal plan but said they should continue talks about a framework to reopen government, increase the nation’s borrowing limit for six months and start budget talks.
At the same time, Obama signaled openness to a Senate Republican plan penned by Maine Sen. Susan Collins to reopen the government, delay Obamacare’s tax on medical devices and raise the debt ceiling. Obama told GOP senators at a White House meeting Friday that the tax was not core to the health care law. It’s not clear if changing the tax would be enough to satiate House Republicans’ appetite to cut away at the Affordable Care Act.
“We’re on our way now to dealing with this issue,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said after the White House meeting. “The actual legislative piece, I don’t think anybody actually knows that at present.”
Time is of the essence. The debt ceiling must be lifted on Oct. 17, according to the Treasury Department. Both chambers of Congress are scheduled to be in session Saturday.
House Republicans will spend Saturday drafting a way forward. They’ll hold a 9 a.m. closed-door conference meeting. The Senate comes into session in the morning and will move forward with a procedural vote in the early afternoon on a clean debt-ceiling increase.
Still, things are moving slowly and there are still stiff disagreements between the White House and House Republicans.
House Republicans mostly waited around Friday, as the White House met with Senate Republicans and reviewed Boehner’s proposal. On Friday evening, Boehner was meeting with House Republicans on the first floor of the Capitol. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) left the Capitol, telling reporters, “I am hopeful that the White House will continue to evaluate our offer.” Top Senate Republicans — like whip John Cornyn of Texas — met with House Republican leadership. And top aides to Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) are in close contact.
The White House and Boehner’s announcement that there’s still no agreement on a way forward came after U.S. financial markets closed. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is not reacting to the ambiguity from D.C.: It finished up 111 points Friday.
For the moment, the tide seems to be turning against House Republicans. Many Senate Republicans joined Obama in appearing cool to the six-week debt ceiling duration.
“The question is can you get something in the next 72 hours? And the president seems committed to be engaged in it,” said Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.). “The president has always said he’d like not to revisit this before Thanksgiving.”
Sen. John McCain said there was little mention of the House proposal in the meeting with Obama. The Arizona Republican said the president “sees progress” in the Senate.
“He referred to it. He doesn’t quite understand [the House] proposal. Nor do I,” McCain said. “The president is very reluctant to commit to anything because he has to deal with the House of Representatives. But I am encouraged by the attitude that’s been displayed.”
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who’s led the charge for defunding Obamacare in any government spending bill, spoke up at the meeting with the president. Cruz told Obama that any deal to reopen the government must also provide relief for those negatively affected by Obamacare, the Texas Republican told reporters following the White House session.
There was a wide-ranging discussion about using entitlement cuts outlined in Obama’s budget to replace the across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration. But while Obama said that revenue needed to be part of the equation, he did not get into detail.
“There was much said but no definitive answer there,” said Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.). “That was a bit frustrating on our part.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said there was an offer to repatriate overseas corporate profits back to the U.S. — with part of the money paying for infrastructure projects — as one source of revenue to help pay for the sequester.
“There’s a real desire to take another effort, not at a grand bargain, but at a sequestration replacement – if you left $100 billion of sequestration in place over the next 10 years, you got $518 billion in place, I think that’s eminently achievable.”