In exchange, Republicans sought tweaks to Obama’s Affordable Care Act, including a two-year delay of a 2.3 percent tax on medical devices that is unpopular in both parties.
Reid and McConnell met with two allies who had been working with Collins — Sens. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) — when Reid rejected that plan but the talks continued.
Democrats want a shorter extension of government funding so that they can try to press the Republicans, whose party’s image has been battered in recent weeks, for more savings from the sequestration cuts in negotiations that would take place in the near term — rather than waiting until March, when the spending cuts will have taken effect.
In addition, Reid told reporters that he will make no concessions on the health-care law.
The Reid-McConnell negotiations will test a relationship that has been deeply frayed in the past three years, when McConnell has served as a key closer on several fiscal deals but has done so by going around Reid to Vice President Biden.
Rather than focusing on the acrimonious days, however, Reid recalled their bipartisan work together nine years ago to revamp the Senate’s oversight of national security agencies. But he warned that a deal will take time.
“We don’t have anything done yet, and a long ways to go before anything like that will happen,” he said.
If an agreement were reached, time would become a factor. Unless every senator agreed to expedite the process — including conservative firebrands such as Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) — it would take until at least late in the week to clear the Senate.
The bill would then go to the House, where it would face an uncertain fate.
Boehner’s closest friends in the Senate, including Graham and Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), pleaded with him Friday to modify his legislation along the lines of what they were trying to broker across the Capitol. The speaker told them Saturday that the Collins plan would face opposition from too many Republicans for him to put it on the floor, Chambliss said.
“We don’t support it,” House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told reporters, saying that the reasons for opposition were “too many to go into.”
In a raucous meeting in the Capitol basement Saturday morning, Boehner told his Republican colleagues that talks between the House GOP and Obama had broken down. He and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) urged members to hold firm, several said, as McConnell and Reid worked on a deal.