Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Democrats Refuse to Bargain Yet Again

House GOP floats plan to address debt ceiling, government funding in response to Senate talks

House Republicans are moving their own proposal to raise the debt ceiling and fund the government -- and plan to vote as early as Tuesday -- in response to a new plan emerging from the Senate side.
The move throws into doubt what the next step will be in the tense budget negotiations. Senate Republican leaders had been planning to brief their members on the Senate talks late Monday morning. But that meeting was postponed, as the House GOP began to go in its own direction. 
House Speaker John Boehner was mum on the details, emerging from meetings with rank-and-file members Monday morning. He claimed "no decisions" had been made on the next step. 
"We're talking with our members on both sides of the aisle to try to find a way to move forward today," he said. 
President Obama, meanwhile, plans to meet with House Democratic leadership Tuesday afternoon. Congressional Democrats hammered their GOP colleagues for crafting a new bill. And White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage called the emerging House plan a "partisan attempt to appease a small group of Tea Party Republicans who forced the government shutdown in the first place." 
House Republicans, though, stressed that the plans were similar and voiced hope that the Senate might accept what they're working on. 
"We have a Republican alternative that is very similar to the Senate. We think it's considerably better," Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., told reporters. 
Senior aides said the proposal would fund the government through Jan. 15, and raise the debt ceiling through Feb. 7. That tracks with what is emerging on the Senate side -- but the House version would also include ObamaCare provisions that the Senate version does not. 
The House framework would include a two-year suspension of the medical device tax in ObamaCare, strip so-called insurance "subsidies" for members of Congress and other government officials, and include income verification for subsidies. 
"Now if the Senate wants to say 'my way or the highway' then I suggest that Senate Republicans not go along with that strategy," Issa said.  
A senior aide confirmed to Fox News that the House plans to work out of an existing budget bill to save time. 
That both chambers are now working on a separate track complicates matters as lawmakers try to meet a Thursday deadline to strike a deal raising the debt ceiling. The government is also entering week three of a partial government shutdown, which took effect after Congress failed to reach an agreement by Oct. 1. 
On the Senate side, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., reported significant progress Monday night on their own plan. 
Reid appeared on the chamber floor Monday night to announce, "We've made tremendous progress -- we are not there yet -- but tremendous progress, and everyone just needs to be patient." 
McConnell added, "We've had a good day...I think it's safe to say we've made substantial progress and we look forward to making more progress in the near future." 
The House GOP Conference was meeting Monday morning. The Senate Republican Conference was scheduled to meet at 11 a.m. to receive an update on negotiations, but that meeting has since been postponed. 
Fox News has learned that the emerging framework on the Senate side would raise the debt ceiling through February, and include a spending bill meant to last through Jan. 15. 
That version would not include any provision relating to ObamaCare subsidies or the medical device tax. But the proposal could include other modest items pertaining to ObamaCare, including income verification for those getting subsidies and a one-year delay of at least one obscure fee which had been sought by unions. 
Negotiators are still tinkering with the framework, and the details could change. 
Pressure is mounting from all sides to reach an agreement. There is fear that the financial markets could start to dive if traders lose confidence that a deal will ultimately emerge. And furloughed federal workers, now entering week three of the partial shutdown, are just now starting to see the hit to their paychecks. 
But both sides of the debate were having a difficult time keeping track of what the other wants out of a deal. A standoff that began as a fight by Republicans to unravel ObamaCare is now largely a fight over spending levels -- which has emerged as a major sticking point. 
After a string of budget proposals fell apart over the weekend, GOP lawmakers on Sunday pointedly accused Democrats of trying to squeeze Republicans to roll back across-the-board spending cuts known as sequester. 
"I agree that Republicans started with the overreach, but now Democrats are one tick too cute," Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., told "Fox News Sunday." "They are now overreaching." 
He said "both sides need to come to the middle of the road." 
Fox News' Chad Pergram and Mike Emanuel and Fox Business Network's Rich Edson contributed to this report.

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