Reid, McConnell near deal to end shutdown, raise $16.7T debt limit
By Erik Wasson and Alexander Bolton - 10/14/13 04:20 PM ET
An emerging Senate deal would raise the nation's $16.7 trillion debt ceiling until mid-February, according to Senate aides.
There were conflicting claims on how long the extension would last, with one aide saying it would go to Feb. 15 and another saying Feb. 7.
It would immediately reopen the government and fund it until Jan. 15, the aides said.
The deal on the table between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would also establish a House-Senate budget committee to come up with a replacement for automatic sequestration cuts. The conference committee would have to report back to Congress by Dec. 13.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) reviewed the deal just after 3 p.m. Monday. The Senate Republican Conference is set to meet at 5:30 p.m.
Congressional leaders were scheduled to go to the White House for a 3 p.m. meeting, but it was delayed to give Senate leaders more time to work out a deal, something seen as a positive sign in the talks.
Democrats had been pushing for a shorter government-funding deal, so moving the date to Jan. 15 would be a concession on their part. By pursuing an earlier deadline, Democrats had hoped to buy more time to negotiate changes for a longer-term 2014 budget to prevent a scheduled spending cut under the sequester from taking place.
Under the current budget law, spending for 2014 will automatically be reduced by $19 billion to $967 billion 15 days after Congress adjourns, which is expected to be about Jan. 15.
Senate Democrats have pushed for sequestration to end, bringing the yearly discretionary budget to $1.058 trillion while Republicans have pushed to keep the $967 billion total while shifting cuts from defense programs to social programs.
Democrats argue they are making a concession to Republicans because they are locking in current spending levels for two months longer than they initially wanted.
“On Jan. 15, that’s when the sequester kicks in,” said a Senate aide. “Funding would be at $988 billion and then the sequester would kick it down to $967 billion.”
The deal would do nothing to delay or end a tax on medical devices included in the healthcare reform law. Republicans had sought to eliminate or delay that tax, which is already being collected.
Reid does not want to repeal or delay the medical device tax unless Republicans grant Democrats a concession, according to the Senate source.
“Reid pushed back heavily on that,” a second aide said.
Reid has held the position throughout the talks that funding the government and keeping the nation from defaulting on its debts should not be considered Republican concessions.
Democrats are also considering including language to require income verification for people applying for subsidies through healthcare insurance exchanges set up under the Affordable Care Act.
A Democratic aide characterized that reform as “a nothing burger” because it would only enforce existing law.
Democrats in the deal win a delay until 2015 of an ObamaCare reinsurance tax opposed by unions.
Under the healthcare reform law, states are required to set up a transitional reinsurance program aimed at stabilizing premiums. As part of that transition, companies providing healthcare will be required to pay $63 per covered person in 2014, as well as lower fees the following two years.
Reid and McConnell would need the cooperation of their respective conferences to get the deal passed by Friday.
They plan to use the 14-month debt-limit extension, which Senate Republican blocked, Saturday as a vehicle. The existing language would be replaced by any agreement Reid and McConnell finalize in the next several hours or days.