WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — Senators put faith in party leaders Sunday to devise a plan that would reopen the government and steer clear of a potential default this week, saying it’s unthinkable that political obstinacy would prevent the United States from paying its bills.
With House leaders sidelined, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have taken the lead on discussions in the fiscal crisis. That raised the level of optimism among some senators that a deal could be reached even as Reid has said there was a “long ways to go” and few details on the leaders’ talks have emerged.
“With the president, with Senate Democrats, with Senate Republicans, there’s a will. We now have to find a way,” Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday morning. “We know the House won’t find that way. So all of it rests on our shoulders.”
Schumer said the frameworks Reid and McConnell are working with are not far apart and that both sides “understood the gravity of default.” Partially restoring sequester cuts remained a major sticking point in talks, Schumer said — Republicans want to move funding from entitlements, while Democrats want more of a mixed approach.
Whether Senate leaders could broker a deal that the Republican-led House would also support remained a wild card.
“I think there’s a feeling among Senate Republicans … that if we can get a broad bipartisan majority to pass something in the next few days, it may help crack the lockjam in the House,” Schumer said.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), however, pointed the finger at the Democrats for blocking a deal that would have ended the partial government shutdown.
“I’m disappointed that twice they were close to a deal, and the Democrats moved the goal posts in light of the polling data,” he said on “Face the Nation.” “I’m very disappointed that the president of the United States has not played a more active role in this, as Bill Clinton did back in ’95.”
“We had a plan, and the Democrat leadership squashed it.
Sunday marked the 13th day of a federal shutdown that has continued to idle 350,000 government workers, left hundreds of thousands of others working without pay and curtailed everything from veterans’ services to environmental inspections. Last week, the effects of the shutdown reached businesses, such as concessions and hotels near federal parks, that depend on government programs.
More ominously, Thursday’s deadline to raise debt ceiling drew another day closer, the day the Obama administration has warned the U.S. will deplete its borrowing authority and risk an unprecedented federal default. Economists say that could send shockwaves throughout the U.S. and beyond.
The pressure was on both parties but seemed mostly on Republicans, who polls show are bearing the brunt of voters’ wrath over the twin standoffs. And though the financial markets rebounded strongly late last week on word of movement in the talks, lawmakers of both parties were warily awaiting their reopening this week to another impasse.
Republicans are demanding spending cuts and deficit reduction in exchange for reopening the government and extending its borrowing authority. President Barack Obama and other Democrats say they want both measures pushed through Congress without condition and would agree to deficit reduction talks afterward.
Out of play, for now, was the Republican-led House, where Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told GOP lawmakers early Saturday that his talks with the president had ground to a halt.
Also sidelined, at least for now, was a plan forged by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and a bipartisan coalition to briefly fund the government and extend the $16.7 trillion debt limit, in exchange for steps like temporarily delaying the medical device tax that helps fund the health care law.
Democrats said Collins’ plan curbed spending too tightly, and Reid announced Saturday it was going nowhere.
Collins said Sunday that both Democrats and Republicans continue to offer ideas and say they want to be part of the group working to reopen the government and address the debt ceiling before Thursday’s deadline.
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