Our Fate Apparently Lies In The Hands Of McConnell, Reid, Boehner, and Biden

Are these four men our last, best hope for a deal that will end the shutdown and avoid breaching the debt ceiling?

Mitch McConnell, Harry Reid, John Boehner, Joe Biden

With just under two and a half days until we hit the unknown that lies beyond the Treasury Department’s debt ceiling deadline, it looks like Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell are continuing to work on a package that will, for all purposes, be the final legislative package likely to make it to the floor of either chamber before then:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has privately offered Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell a deal that would reopen the government until mid-to-late December while extending the U.S. debt ceiling until next year, according to several sources familiar with the talks.

The proposal would set up a framework for larger budget negotiations with the House over the automatic sequestration spending cuts and other major deficit issues, the sources said. Moreover, Senate Democrats are open to delaying Obamacare’s medical device tax and a requirement that those receiving Obamacare subsidies be subject to income verification — but they would have to get something from Republicans in return, 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.

(…)

Under Reid’s proposal, the debt ceiling would be extended for six to nine months, and the government would be funded at $986 billion until some point in December. Doing so would punt the fight over whether to lock in 2014 sequestration levels at $967 billion until December. And by extending the debt ceiling until the middle of next year, it would put the issue in the center of the heated 2014 midterm elections.

While the proposal has similarities to one offered by 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.

After a weekend legislative session in the Senate and House, talks appear to be at a standstill at the the beginning of the day. U.S. stocks initially tumbled before recovering — and even posting gains — by the middle of the day as optimism for a deal grew.

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. Options under consideration include language to cancel health insurance subsidies for members of Congress, their aides and the White House, and an amendment to tighten requirements for health-insurance related subsidies.

After one meeting in McConnell’s office today, Reid expressed optimism that a deal will be reached:

Emerging from a closed-door meeting with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NY) told reporters that the sides were making progress on a deal to end the government shutdown and raise the debt limit and that he hoped to have a plan ready for a Monday afternoon meeting at the White House.

“I hope so,” Reid said when asked if a proposal would be ready for a 3 p.m. meeting with himself, McConnell, President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

“We’re getting closer,” he said. Reid and McConnell met for about half an hour Monday in McConnell’s office.

In other news, Reid and McConnell will be joining Speaker Boehner and House Minority Leader Pelosi at the White House for a meeting with President Obama and Vice-President Biden. The fact that Biden, who has largely been on the sidelines for the past three weeks of this kabuki theater, is being specifically mentioned as participating in this meeting could be significant. In each of the most recent crises that we’ve faced over the past three years or so, the Vice-President has ended up being at the center of last minute negotiations that ended up resulting in a deal of some kind. As I’ve noted before, the fact that he’s been kept out of the public eye this time around has been seen by many as an indication that Obama’s close advisers that Biden has given away too much in the past. Now that we’re coming down to the 11th hour, quite literally, though, bringing in someone who seems to have a better relationship with long-time Senate Republicans than either Reid or Obama would seem to be the smart thing to do.

Assuming that Reid and McConnell manage to put something together that can make it through the Senate, and most importantly past the 60 vote threshold needed to invoke cloture, the real question will be what the fate of this would be in the House, and whether Speaker Boehner would be willing to put it on the floor even with the possibility of it facing serious Republican opposition. To a large extent, I suspect we won’t even begin to know the answer to that question until there are more details released. Right now National Review’s Robert Costa, who has been the go-to reporter if you want to understand how all of this is playing out among House Republicans, is noting this afternoon that most House Republicans are waiting to see what’s in the details, and what Boehner wants to do after the White House meeting today.

So, as far as the House goes, it’s anyone’s guess right now. However, I think Ed Morrissey may have it right here:

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.

Will the Tea Partiers in the House accept this? We’ll see I suppose, but this is exactly the kind of kick the can down the road deal we usually get in these situations. Whether we actually get serious fiscal discussions afterwards is another question entirely.

In any case, if there is a deal, then all parties will have to move quickly, both to get something done before Thursday and to send a signal to world and American financial markets that progress is being made prior to their opening on Tuesday.

Update: Just ten minutes after I published this post, it was announced that the 3pm White House meeting mentioned above has been “postponed.” No reason has been given so far, and there’s no word if it will be rescheduled for later in the day. There is, however, this from CBS’s Major Garrett:

So this postponement may actually a good sign.

FILED UNDER: Barack Obama, Congress, Deficit and Debt, Joe Biden, Politicians, US Politics, , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. C. Clavin says:

    “…he’d have to break the Hastert Rule…”

    It’s not actually a RULE…and Boehner has already broken it when he wanted to…so he doesn’t even consider it a rule.

  2. Barry says:

    This sort of deal would really hurt Obama, IMHO. W’d go through the same sh*t in a few months, but this would be now politically normalized. The GOP would no longer be doing something outrageous, but rather something which was part of the process.

  3. David M says:

    The Senate will require unanimous consent to get this done in time, so Cruz or another default denier can throw a pretty big roadblock up if they want.

    That’s another reason why the debt ceiling should be eliminated, so that some lunatic doesn’t shoot the hostage by himself.

  4. Grumpy Realist says:

    @Barry: I think President Obama would have much more clout if the next time this comes around, he refuses to budge and insists on lifting the debt limit completely. At that point there will be adequate evidence that if this weapon is left lying around the Republican Party will continue to use it for extortion.

  5. Our Fate Apparently Lies In The Hands Of McConnell, Reid, Boehner, and Biden

    Oh God, we’re doomed! DOOOOOOOOOOMMMEEEDD!!!!

  6. Ron Beasley says:

    And of course we have this:
    Ted Cruz Could Force a Debt Default All by Himself
    And he’s just such a narcissistic sociopath to do it.

  7. al-Ameda says:

    Republicans want a deal that ensures that we will go through this bull**** repeatedly up to some point before the 2014 mid-terms.

    The big question is, can Boehner deliver 20 (or so) votes in the House?

    This is an asinine and aggravating game of chicken. I’m now convinced that Republicans would go ahead and force a default if polling showed a majority would blame the president.

  8. Tillman says:

    I’d been wondering if Boehner would ever have a Frank Hummel moment and summon his caucus to tell them, “It’s over. We bluffed, they called it.”

    Something tells me this deal won’t make it.

  9. al-Ameda says:

    @Ron Beasley:
    From the article you linked to:

    Here’s a cheerful thought as Congress remains deadlocked over the debt ceiling and the hours tick away toward default: Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), who basically forced the shutdown and whose own private polls have convinced him that it has been a glorious success, at this point could probably force a default and global economic calamity on his own—if he were so inclined.

    It’s probably not a coincidence that his last name is Cruz …. “Cross.” You know, there are probably many on the Right who believe that Ted is the Messiah.

  10. Ron Beasley says:

    @al-Ameda:

    Republicans would go ahead and force a default if polling showed a majority would blame the president.

    The real danger here is that once again we see the Republicans not believing the polls – many of them actually think they are winning this.

  11. al-Ameda says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    The real danger here is that once again we see the Republicans not believing the polls – many of them actually think they are winning this.

    People like Cruz and Palin definitely believe it – or at least they believe that if they hold out long enough the people will come around to their position. They believe that they’re going to take back the country.

    In my family, my father and most of my brothers and sisters to FoxNews, and guys like Mark Levin, and they really believe in Palin and Cruz . I know it’s only 7 people, but I get to hear this stuff played back to me every time we get together.

  12. Rob in CT says:

    Republicans want a deal that ensures that we will go through this bull**** repeatedly up to some point before the 2014 mid-terms.

    Hmm.

    From the standpoint of what is best for the country in the short-term, this would be a bad thing.
    However, from the standpoint of what’s good in the medium-term, there’s a part of me that wants this to happen.

    Absent extraordinary factors, the GOP will retain control of the House in 2014. We know that their increasingly crazed actions have hurt their poll numbers, but I figure that we’re too far out from the election for this to matter if things blow over. IF, however, the GOP keeps trying to pull this BS and the Dems keep their act together, well… maybe Speaker Pelosi comes back to power.

  13. Ken says:

    @David M: The Senate will require unanimous consent to get this done in time, so Cruz or another default denier can throw a pretty big roadblock up if they want.

    That’s exactly what I came here to say. Our fate only lies in the hands of McConnell, Reid, Boehner, and Biden insofar as they can coerce, cajole or convince the Insane wing of the Republican Party not to obstruct. Otherwise it’s going to take MUCH longer to stop this insanity

  14. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @al-Ameda:

    You know, there are probably many on the Right who believe that Ted is the Messiah.

    If Ted is the Messiah, why are WE the ones under threat of crucifixion?

  15. Argon says:

    Never bet against Smoking Joe Biden.

    We’ll be fine.

  16. Tyrell says:

    What about the House Ways and Means committee ? I thought these things were hammered out in
    the committees and then almost always rubber stamped by the House, sent on to the Senate where put their stuff in it and it is passed. That’s the way it used to be. What in the world is going on here? Maybe I am looking at the past rather favorably, but people like Mills, Wayne Hayes, and others always managed to run things a lot smoother back then. My heroes then were politicians, generals, and F.B.I. Director J. Edgar Hoover. How times have changed.