WASHINGTON - House Republicans stepped back from budget negotiations Saturday,
leaving the Senate to take the lead on reopening the federal government and
avoiding a default on the nation's debt.
At a brief meeting of House Republicans on Saturday morning, top leaders
said they have no new proposal to offer the White House.
After the meeting, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said, "I'm
disappointed that the president has rejected the offer that we put on the
table. I know that he's trying to see which Republican senator he can pick off
in the Senate. I hope that the Senate Republicans stand strong so we can speak
with one voice."
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., said Obama would rather deal with the Senate
because the House has a tougher negotiating position.
"It's now up to the Senate Republicans to stand up," said Rep.
Raul Labrador, R-Idaho.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., excoriated House Republicans on
the Senate floor Saturday. Reid said he had been pleased to see Republicans
beginning to negotiate over the past few days with the White House. But now,
"that's over with. It's done. They're not talking anymore."
Reid is pushing a simple 15-month extension of the debt ceiling, but in a
Saturday test vote, Reid's proposal did not get enough votes to bring it to the
Senate floor. Reid needed 60 votes to bring the measure to the floor for
debate, but only 53 senators voted to proceed. After the vote, Reid called
Democrats into a meeting to discuss the way forward.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine has been working with senators in both parties
on a budget framework that includes a six-month stopgap funding bill through
March and a debt ceiling increase through January. The extensions would give
Congress breathing room to reach a broader budget agreement.
On Saturday, Collins said: "I'm trying to give the House a serious
option to consider. And that's been one of my goals since their first strategy
was clearly a very flawed one. And so I hope that they'll take a look look at
She added, "What we had was this absolute stalemate where people
weren't talking to each other. So my plan is still subject to a lot of
negotiations and discussions but at least it's gotten the conversation
The past few days have seen a flurry of negotiations between the White House
and Congress as the Oct. 17 deadline on the nation's debt limit approaches. The
Treasury Department has said that without congressional action to raise the
debt ceiling, it will be unable to pay the nation's bills after that date.
The government has also been partially shutdown since Oct. 1, because
Congress has been unable to pass a spending bill to provide a budget for the
new fiscal year that began that date.
House Republicans had refused to act on the debt ceiling or the spending
bill without an agreement to suspend or defund the president's signature health
care law. Democrats said they would not negotiate until after the bills were
Over the past few days, President Obama has held separate meetings with the
Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate.
Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, had suggested a six-week extension of the debt
ceiling, and Obama said he was open to the idea but wanted the government to be
reopened as well.
President Obama told business leaders on a conference call Friday that he
hoped a deal could be struck this weekend.
Reid emphasized Saturday that it could be catastrophic for financial markets
to reopen next week with no deal done and the threat of U.S. default looming.
"Everyone will lose. Not only in America, but around the world."