Boehner did not immediately tell reporters specifics of the plan. But the speaker made clear that House Republicans were not agreeing to Obama’s demand that they pass legislation to fund the government without partisan riders, thereby ending the first government shutdown in 17 years.
In any case, Boehner’s proposal fell flat in the Senate, where members of both parties were clamoring to end the shutdown.
Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), speaking to reporters after a White House meeting between Obama and Senate Democrats, said the shutdown must end and the debt ceiling must be raised ahead of negotiations with the Republicans, who he complained keep changing their demands.
“This is a situation where they do not know what they want,” Reid said. His message to the GOP: “Open the government. Pay our bills. We’ll negotiate with you about anything.” Reid also said that Senate Democrats would “look at anything [House Republicans] send us,” but when asked about negotiating with them before reopening the government, he replied: “Not going to happen.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), meanwhile, was consulting fellow Republican senators to develop a proposal, advanced by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), to end the shutdown and raise the federal debt limit for as long as three months.
The package sparked the first bipartisan negotiations since the standoff began in early September. But Collins’s proposal called for Democratic concessions including repeal of a tax on medical devices needed to fund Obama’s health-care initiative, and it would maintain deep budget cuts known sequestration through at least March.
The House GOP plan would suspend the debt limit until Nov. 22, the Friday before Thanksgiving, while also forbidding Treasury Secretary Jack Lew from using “extraordinary measures” that his department has used in recent years to extend his borrowing authority for weeks after the ceiling is reached, according to a senior GOP aide who was in the room. This creates a hard “X date,” as financial analysts call the issue, leaving no wiggle room beyond that day.
The House Republicans essentially are offering a “clean” debt-limit increase in exchange for negotiations over reopening the government, aides said. The government shutdown would not end until Obama agreed to “structural reforms” to the tax code and federal health programs.
The Republican plan for a six-week increase in the debt limit, without conservative strings attached, was aimed chiefly at calming jittery financial markets, according to senior GOP advisers.
Financial markets soared earlier Thursday on the first sign of optimistic news out of Washington in almost a month, with the Dow Jones industrial average up 169 points in the first 15 minutes of trading. The rally continued when Boehner confirmed the plan at an 11 a.m. press briefing, and by 1:30 p.m. the Dow was up more than 225 points.
The plan was presented to the House GOP caucus Thursday morning after Lew warned lawmakers that he would be unable to guarantee payments to any group — whether Social Security recipients or U.S. bondholders — unless Congress raises the federal debt ceiling.