Negotiations to end the U.S. government shutdown, now in its third week, were making significant progress in the Senate just days before the government exhausts its ability to borrow more money to pay its bills.
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President Obama and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) spoke by telephone about the emerging deal to end the shutdown and raise the debt ceiling on Monday, according to a Senate official.
Confused by all the crazy ups and downs of Washington over the government shutdown and debt ceiling? Here’s a primer on what’s happening.
A coalition of 33 organizations representing veterans and members of the military are to gather at the World War II Memorial Tuesday morning to demand an end to the government shutdown that members say is harming veterans and military families.
“The shutdown has been devastating for the nation’s military readiness and for the veterans, service members, families and survivors in the uniformed services community,” said a statement from The Military Coalition, which represents among other groups the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, and the National Military Family Association.
Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) says he thinks the Senate will reach a deal Tuesday on bringing an end to the shutdown and debt ceiling debate.
“…I think we’ll get an agreement today in the Senate. I’m not saying we can pass it today because there’s logistics about drafting and getting it to the floor and the procedural things we’ll have to do,” Pryor told CNN. “But my guess is — this is just guess — but my guess is we’ll pass something in the Senate tomorrow. Get it over to the House as quickly as possible. Hopefully they’ll pass it shortly thereafter.
From there, he says, it’s up to the Senate to send a strong signal with its vote by getting more than two-thirds of senators to agree.
Pryor, who has been working on the deal with a bipartisan group of senators, said they have set a high threshold for the number of votes they want to get.
“And one of the goals we really set out within our group, look, we don’t want 60 votes,” Pryor said. ” We want to get 70, 75, 80 votes on this if we possibly can because we think that really puts pressure on the House to get this passed.”
Worth noting: The Senate’s immigration bill got 68 votes earlier this year but has yet to come to a vote in the House or get House Republicans to jump on board. In other words, that 70-plus-vote threshold is not a new concept.
Some folks had bemoaned the fate of the Agriculture Department’s “Great Stink Bug Count,” a citizen-led census of the pesky brown bugs which was thrown into question due to the shuttered government.
But never fear. We’re told that the participants in the project — more than 300 people, from middle-school students to music professors — were already keeping records before the shutdown, and that the USDA’s university partners have stepped in to collect them after the government had to go dark.
Nearly a year removed from a presidential election that put its electoral and demographic weaknesses on full display, the ongoing government shutdown has badly hampered the Republican party’s hopes of rebranding itself in advance of both the 2014 midterms and the 2016 presidential election, according to an analysis of three weeks worth of Washington Post-ABC News polling data.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), one of the leaders of the bipartisan negotiations in the Senate, cautioned Tuesday morning that there is lots of ground to cover before a deal is done.
He also continued to criticize the cast-iron conservative wing of the party that he said “hijacked” the process for two months.
“In fairness, on our side of the aisle, we’ve wasted two months focused on something that was never going to happen,” Corker told CNN. “I won’t say that I did, but a number of folks did, and what we could have been doing all this time is focused on those mandatory changes that all of us know our country needs. And we’ve blown that opportunity, I hate to say it.”
Corker added: “But, look, there’s a lot of work that’s going to be done over the next two or three days. I don’t think it’s time to spike the football in the end zone yet.”
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has said the Senate is 70 to 80 percent of the way to a deal, while Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) estimated that the deal would get done sometime Tuesday and get a vote by Wednesday.
House conservatives, who will be the toughest obstacles to any compromise bill, were noncommittal on the emerging Senate deal as they headed into the House Republican Conference Tuesday morning.
“I haven’t seen the Senate deal,” said Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.), the lead sponsor of an earlier House Republican proposal to link the continuing resolution.
“I just wanted to hear what they have to say,” Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) said.
Others were less optimistic.
“I think we’ve gone from bad to worse,” said Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.)
“That seems to be an oxymoron Senate and plan,” Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-Tex.) said.
House Republican leaders plan to push their own proposal to reopen the govt and raise the debt ceiling — a plan that would give Republicans a delay of the medical device tax.
According to two Republicans leaving a closed door meeting of the caucus, their plan would add a two-year repeal of the medical device tax and include a provision eliminating the employer health care contribution for members of Congress and White House official.
Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), one of the leading moderates in the House, confirmed the plan on MSNBC’s “Daily Rundown.”
“The speaker had said this: that the House is likely to launch an initiative, as early as today, that would do a few things: essentially use the same time frames for the debt limit and the CR as in the Senate negotiations … it would strike the reinsurance tax — the $63 per head tax for the large self-insurers and the large unions,” Dent said. “That would be out and would replaced with a two-year delay of the medical device tax, plus a variation of the derivative of the Vitter language, minus the congressional staff. But I think it would affect Congress and the White House and White House staff.”
The Vitter amendment would force members of Congress and the administration to obtain health care through Obamacare’s health exchanges.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said the plan was designed to be attractive to democrats and would follow time lives established in senate negotiations — funding government agencies until Jan. 15 and raising the debt ceiling until Feb. 7. He said the plan, which House leaders hope to vote on Tuesday, was well received by Republicans.
“We think we’ve enhanced it in a number of ways,” Issa said of the Senate framework.
Asked how the House would react if Senate Democrats reject their changes, he said, “we haven’t passed our bill. They haven’t passed their bill. … We today will pass a bill we believe the Senate should accept based on their likely negotiations.”
Passage of the proposal in the House is no sure bet. Without Democratic support, it will need to get 217 votes from Republican members.
Emerging from the meeting, Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) said many members have “sincere, deep concerns” with the plan, noting that he is willing to reopen the government but has not voted to raise the debt ceiling since 1997 and has vowed never to do so again.
Another Republican close to leadership said “response was tepid” when Boehner laid out the proposal. “It’s going to be a hell of a time” to get to 217 votes, he said. “It’s going to be dicey.”
In one of the more emotional points of the meeting, Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.) — a second term lawmaker who is a junior member of leadership but also popular among cast-iron conservatives — led the singing of “Amazing Grace” near the start of the huddle.
Paul Kane contributed to this report. Updated at 10:18 a.m.
In one of the more emotional points of this morning’s House GOP meeting, Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.) — a second term lawmaker who is a junior member of leadership but also popular among cast-iron conservatives — led the singing of “Amazing Grace” near the start of the huddle.
Southerland, who comes from the funeral home business, sings hymns at burial sites, according to our recent profile.