Report: Reid offers McConnell deal that would end fiscal standoff
posted at 12:51 pm on October 14, 2013 by Allahpundit
The terms: Government re-opens and is funded until mid-December, debt ceiling is raised for another six to nine months, and Democrats maybe agree to repeal ObamaCare’s medical-device tax and reinstate anti-fraud measures for O-Care applicants — depending upon what Republicans give them in return.
The proposal would set up a framework for larger budget negotiations with the House over the automatic sequestration spending cuts and and other major deficit issues, the sources said…
McConnell is still reviewing the offer and is privately huddling with groups of GOP senators Monday who could be key to providing enough votes in the Senate. On Monday morning, McConnell met with Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mike Johanns of Nebraska and Mark Kirk of Illinois…
While the proposal has similarities to one offered by [GOP Sen. Susan] Collins, it has some very key differences over the length of the stop-gap spending measure and the debt ceiling hike. Collins proposed extending government spending for six months, which Democrats objected to because they argued it would lock in the $967 billion sequestration levels for 2014 required under the 2011 Budget Control Act. She also suggested extending the debt ceiling through the end of January, far too short of a time period for many Democrats…
On another track, House Republican leadership is readying itself to lift the debt ceiling for six weeks. House GOP aides stress that no decisions have been made, but this legislation is unlikely to be “clean” – meaning it will contain a number of conservative policies attached.
Reid is willing to accept lower sequestration levels of spending in the short term, in order to end the shutdown, but not for all of next year. And obviously, to avoid another round of fiscal brinksmanship, he wants the debt ceiling punted as far as possible into the future so that Boehner and the GOP aren’t once again tempted to combine funding the government with raising the debt ceiling. That means a short-term bill to fund the government, so that Democrats can start pounding the table to end sequestration ASAP, and a long-term bill for raising the debt limit. Collins and the GOP naturally want the opposite — a long-term bill on funding the government which guarantees sequestration spending levels into next year and a short-term debt ceiling hike so that Republicans can, if they wish, use that as leverage sooner rather than later for some new demand. Normally this would be easily solved splitting the difference on both time frames — e.g., four months for each prong — except, in that case, the next government funding negotiations would fall roughly around the time we’re hitting the debt ceiling again, which is exactly what Democrats fear. Someone’s going to have to win here on the timetable.
Big question: If Reid wins, as seems likely, how does Boehner get this past the House? I’ve always thought he’d be willing to do one big cave in the name of finally getting this off his plate, but a short(ish)-term deal doesn’t do that. It’ll disappoint conservatives and then set him up to disappoint them again in December or April or whenever the next round of kabuki brinksmanship begins. In fact, he may not even have a majority of his own caucus to pass Reid’s bill, in which case he’d have to break the Hastert Rule just to buy himself and the leadership a reprieve of a few months before they begin this again. Whether they want to or not, they’re going to have to no choice but to aggressively pursue some sort of major fiscal deal with O and Reid when this is over just so that, if they can come to terms on anything, they can add on a significant debt-limit hike as a condition that would punt this past next November. The last thing they want is tea partiers clamoring for some debt-ceiling chicken next spring or summer, with turnout in the midterms potentially hanging in the balance. So maybe that’s the “way out” here — a cave of three months or so in the next few days and then the rest of autumn spent negotiating deficit reduction with Obama.
Exit question: Is there enough time left to pass a deal before we hit the ceiling on Thursday? The Senate can move quickly to approve a deal only if all 100 members consent unanimously to waiving the rules for 30 hours of debate. And you know what that means.
Update: Obama’s meeting with Reid, McConnell, Boehner, and Pelosi at the White House at 3 p.m ET. Also attending: Dealmaker Joe Biden, who’s been sidelined until now because Reid wanted to play chicken with Republicans.
Update: Lefty Jonathan Chait wonders if the claim that Democrats are demanding an end to sequestration spending was actually invented by centrist Republicans to convince the House that they’re “winning” if they accept a short-term deal that keeps sequestration spending in place for two or three months. Reid, as noted, isn’t actually opposed to keeping lower levels of spending in place for a few months (but only a few months). If that’s what’s happening, though, it carries a big risk — what if actually unifies Republicans in opposition?