Signs Of A Temporary Deal In Washington?

There seems to be at least some hope for a temporary deal in Washington to end the shutdown and raise the debt ceiling, but don't count your chickens just yet.

United States Capitol Building, Washington, D.C. Aerial

The initial reports out of the House Republicans meeting with President Obama yesterday afternoon didn’t seem good at all. When it ended shortly after 6pm, neither Speaker Boehner nor any of the other leaders or committee chairs stopped in front of the microphones outside the White House to speak to reporters, which some took as a bad sign. Indeed, Business Insider’s Josh Barro characterized the news as “Obama To GOP: Drop Dead,” and The New York Times initially reported the story as being the President rejecting the GOP’s plan for a short term increase in the debt ceiling and negotiations over reopening the Federal Government. As the evening wore on, though, things didn’t seem quite so dire. Statements from Republicans like Eric Cantor and Hal Rogers expressed optimism that a deal could be worked out and, most surprisingly, one GOP Congressman who was in the room at the White House told CNBC’s Larry Kudlow that the GOP hoped to be able to have a plan to re-open the government in the coming days. This morning, while it’s clear that there’s no deal yet, it also seems like there might be something coming together:

WASHINGTON — President Obama and House Republicans failed to reach agreement on a six-week extension of the nation’s borrowing authority during a meeting Thursday at the White House, but the two sides kept talking, and the offer from politically besieged Republicans was seen as an initial step toward ending the budget standoff.

In statements afterward that struck the most positive tone in weeks of acrimony, House Republicans described their hour-and-a-half-long meeting with Mr. Obama as “a useful and productive conversation,” while the White House described “a good meeting,” though “no specific determination was made” about the Republicans’ offer. Both agreed to continue talks through the night.

People familiar with the meeting said that Mr. Obama pressed Republicans to reopen the government, and that Republicans raised the possibility that financing could be restored by early next week if terms for broad budget negotiations could be reached.

Twenty Republicans, led by Speaker John A. Boehner, went to the White House at Mr. Obama’s invitation after a day of fine-tuning their proposal to increase the Treasury Department’s authority to borrow money to pay existing obligations through Nov. 22. The government is expected to reach its borrowing limit next week. In exchange, they sought a commitment by the president to negotiate a deal for long-term deficit reduction and a tax overhaul.

The president “didn’t say yes, didn’t say no,” said Representative Paul D. Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin and chairman of the House Budget Committee. He added, “We agreed to continue talking and continue negotiating.”

Still, the House Republican offer represented a potentially significant breakthrough. Even if Democrats found fault with the Republicans’ immediate proposal — for example, it would prevent the Treasury secretary from engaging in accounting maneuvers to stave off potential default — it was seen as an opening gambit in the legislative dance toward some resolution before the government is expected to breach its debt limit on Thursday.

Even before the meeting, the White House and its Democratic allies in Congress were all but declaring victory at the evidence that Republicans — suffering the most in polls, and pressured by business allies and donors not to provoke a government default — were seeking a way out of the impasse.

After some fretful weeks, the Democrats believe, Mr. Obama was seeing some payoff for his big gamble this year. Burned by his experience with House Republicans in mid-2011, when brinkmanship over the debt limit hobbled the already weak economy, Mr. Obama began his second term vowing never again to negotiate over raising the ceiling or to give any concessions to Republicans for performing an act that is their constitutional responsibility.

“The good news is that Republicans have accepted the principle that they’re not going to attach conditions to the debt ceiling,” said Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, the senior Democrat on the House Budget Committee. “The bad news is they’ve only extended the debt ceiling for six weeks.”

For House Republicans, the maneuvers represented a near-reversal of their original strategy in September of going to the mat over the debt limit but not shutting down the government. Now, under pressure from falling poll numbers and angry business supporters, they are seeking a compromise on the debt ceiling. Yet for now, they are still refusing to finance and reopen the government without some concessions.

Mr. Boehner and his colleagues left the White House without speaking to waiting reporters, and quickly gathered in his Capitol suite for further discussion. Their debt limit proposal could come to a vote as soon as Friday.

One thing that may be motivating the House Republicans to come up with something is the fact that their colleagues in the Senate are growing restless:

In the Senate, top Republicans began crafting a proposal that would reopen the government and raise the federal debt limit for as long as three months — an approach closer to the terms Obama has set to end the standoff.

The developments meant that bipartisan negotiations were suddenly underway on two separate tracks Thursday after weeks of stalemate. Major questions remain, however, about the path ahead.

Both sides described Obama’s evening session with House Republicans as a “good meeting” and said talks will continue.

“The president’s goal remains to ensure we pay the bills we’ve incurred, reopen the government and get back to the business of growing the economy,” the White House said in a statement.

House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) left the session and returned to the Capitol without speaking to reporters. Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said the meeting was “clarifying,” even though it did not produce a resolution.

“He didn’t say yes. He didn’t say no,” said House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). “We’re continuing to negotiate this evening.”

White House officials were careful not to characterize the meeting as a negotiation, after the president spent weeks publicly and privately declaring that he would not negotiate over lifting the debt ceiling. According to a Democrat familiar with the meeting, Obama agreed to review GOP proposals for reopening the government but reiterated that he would not make policy concessions.

Republicans, however, did describe the process as a negotiation. The 20 House Republicans — Boehner declined the offer to bring all 232 GOP lawmakers to the White House — gathered in the Roosevelt Room with Obama, Vice President Biden, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and other senior officials.

Reporting from the press this morning has been fairly optimistic about the idea that a deal not only on a temporary debt ceiling increase, but also a temporary Continuing Resolution may be at hand, but it seems clear that there many hurdles that such a deal would face before it would be anything close to a realistic possibility. For one thing, any deal on a Continuing Resolution would have to be run past the full House GOP Caucus by Leadership, and there are still members of that caucus who are pushing the idea of using the CR as leverage to force some kind of concessions on Obamacare.  For another, it seems pretty clear that Republicans are going to require some kind of real guarantee of substantive talks over the next six weeks, otherwise it’s likely to be hard to persuade Republicans already skeptical of the Administration and their own leadership to sign onto a plan that requires a tremendous among of trust up front.

Even if we do reach a deal resembling what’s being discussed, of course, there’s no guarantee of success. Six weeks hardly seems like a sufficient amount of time within which to resolve the differences between the parties on many of the issues that will be discussed, especially if the subject matter of discussions turns to the kind of mini “Grand Bargain” that Paul Ryan suggested earlier this week. Additionally, if the Tea Party wing of the GOP insists on pushing for a long term deal that chips away at Obamacare somehow, then it’s obvious that negotiations are going to stalemate at some point. Ideally, these “short term” extensions should be longer, ideally until some time in mid-December at the very least and possibly into some time in January. As it stands, don’t be surprised to see the conversation in Washington shifting back toward shutdown once again as we head into Thanksgiving and the Christmas Holidays.

But, let’s be optimistic I suppose and hope that Congress is at least going to find a temporary solution to this latest manufactured crisis.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Deficit and Debt, Health Care, 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 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. Todd says:

    I’ve got the TV on in the background, and heard some reporting that President Obama may be willing to make some concessions to end the government shutdown … but it would have to be something he’s already basically agreed to anyway in the previous discussions.

    So nothing about Obamacare, and still not negotiating over the debt ceiling.

    I think negotiating to end the shutdown, and hopefully pass some sort of a longer-term budget makes perfect sense. But it’s hard to deny that the Republicans are in a much worse position to get the things they want now, than they would have been if they’d just gone to conference months ago on the bigger budget resolution.

  2. mantis says:

    Six weeks hardly seems like a sufficient amount of time within which to resolve the differences between the parties on many of the issues that will be discussed,

    Plenty of time for Lucy to set the football again.

  3. john personna says:

    The new NBC/WSJ poll should seal it in any rational world:

    By a 22-point margin (53 percent to 31 percent), the public blames the Republican Party more for the shutdown than President Barack Obama – a wider margin of blame for the GOP than the party received during the poll during the last shutdown in 1995-96.

    Many on the right predicted a no win game, and that’s the way it’s playing out.

    At this point the Republicans would be doubly crazy to hang on.

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I heard a rumor that Obama got the Republicans attention for real when he offered to wrap the agreement with BACON!!!!!

    For another, it seems pretty clear that Republicans are going to require some kind of real guarantee of substantive talks over the next six weeks, otherwise it’s likely to be hard to persuade Republicans already skeptical of the Administration and their own leadership to sign onto a plan that requires a tremendous among of trust up front.

    Translation: We get what we want with out having to give you anything you want or we are going to threaten to blow the whole thing up again.

    Oh and,

    Republicans already skeptical of the Administration

    Really? That is how you describe the Tea Party wing of the GOP? How about this for an alternative: “Republicans bound and determined to destroy Obama and everything he stands for in their deluded** minds.”

    ** and yes, anyone who calls Obama a socialist is either deluded or a complete idiot. I think deluded is the kinder term as it suggests a mental illness, not rank stupidity.

  5. john personna says:

    Or as Daniel Larison notes:

    To put the positive/negative ratings in perspective, the Republicans are at -29 compared to the Democrats’ -1.

  6. gVOR08 says:

    I think the GOPs are huddling over how big a fig leaf they can ask for.

    I hate the idea of a “Grand Bargain”. We have an unemployment crisis. We do not have budget and entitlement crises. We have budget and entitlement problems that could be dealt with easily if we had even a marginally functional Congress. But if Obama feels a need to do a grand bargain, or at least appear to, this is the best time to do it; while the GOPs are at their nadir. I think Obama would take them to the cleaners, and they wouldn’t even know it happened. He is a devious bastard. And I mean that as the highest compliment.

  7. James Pearce says:

    As it stands, don’t be surprised to see the conversation in Washington shifting back toward shutdown once again as we head into Thanksgiving and the Christmas Holidays.

    Oh, I would be very surprised. This shutdown resulted in the complete demolition of the “defund Obamacare or else” strategy, not to mention record-low approval ratings.

    I mean, Republican leaders come out of a meeting with Obama and call it “useful?” The tone has changed.

    Just days ago, they were talking about how Obamacare would destroy the country. Now the issue has been dropped.

    They were talking about how they wouldn’t pass a clean bill or fund the government unless they got a whole laundry list of things. Now they’ll settle for six more weeks of negotiations. No doubt they’ll get concessions.

    But they’ll have to ask themselves T.S. Eliot’s immortal question: Would it have been worth it after all?

  8. john personna says:

    The Republicans still have these guys on their flank … I give you Rush Limbaugh:

    If Lee and Cruz had not done this, Obamacare would be fully funded, the debt limit would have been increased, and whatever was happening at the exchanges would be a well-kept secret. But because Lee and Cruz insisted on this, the Democrats were exposed. Harry Reid: Why should I care about kids with cancer? Obama opening the National Mall for illegal aliens and keeping it closed to World War II vets. People ask whether the conversation is good for the country or not. Of course it is.

    I’m sure that gVOR08 is right, that many in the GOP want a fig leaf, but I’m not sure that passes the Hastert Rule.

  9. ptfe says:

    I’m going to guess that the end result will be Republicans getting the same thing out of these “negotiations” as they would have if they’d let the House & Senate budget committees meet. Net change: massive delay for the same outcome, economic waste, and public image disaster.

    As I ask my kids after a tantrum, “Was it worth it? Did you get what you wanted by throwing a tantrum?” Given that they didn’t see this coming (somehow!), that means they’re falling short of a 4-year old. Draw your own conclusions about the intelligence on display.

  10. john personna says:

    @ptfe:

    I’m sure the Republicans will get less out of the budget committee, because they have less power, popularity, and support.

    On the other hand, does what comes out of the committee have to pas the House, by first clearing the “majority of the majority” under the Hastert Rule?

    .. and does that happen _before_ relieving shutdown?

    A recipe for delayed disaster.

  11. john personna says:

    (We really should have had boredom in government until 2016. We’ve been through too much. The Great Recession and two wars are both winding down, and receding. It would have been a great time to trim sails gently and enjoy the respite. We deserve it.

    We shouldn’t have to worry about politics in 2013.

    When we say “manufactured crisis” we mean that, and much more.

    We mean “crisis years” when there should have been none!)

  12. ptfe says:

    @john personna: Unfortunately unclear. Hopefully any “deal” reached will simply be brought to the floor of the House as the only available option so we can put this ridiculous crusade behind us.

    But crazy Republican double-downs are the new normal, and Boehner’s weakness only encourages obstruction of anything that’s worked out. Especially from people like Cruz who probably delusionally think they’ve gained from all this.

  13. john personna says:

    You know, another way of putting the “manufactured crisis” thing in perspective, is that many people say they like divided government, or even gridlocked government.

    That is because they assumed that gridlock equaled a caretaker government.

    This is not a caretaker government.

  14. C. Clavin says:

    The polling for the GOP is getting worse and worse by the hour…historically bad…another serious miscalculation by the Republicans caused by only listening to others in the bubble…just like their predictions of Romney winning in a landslide…my bet is this is settled this before the Sunday Morning shows.

  15. al-Ameda says:

    Assuming that they cut a short term deal to avoid default and extend the debt limit, the same morons who engineered this fiasco will again have an opportunity very soon to revisit this bulls***. It’s hard to be optimistic when you’re dealing with these idiots.

  16. C. Clavin says:

    The Republicans really messed up…with Obamacare faltering out if the gates….they’ve missed a huge opportunity.

  17. john personna says:

    @C. Clavin:

    One tag I heard was “Obamacare had more users in the first 24 hours than Twitter had in the first 24 months.”

    That would be the reasoned defense.

    On the other hand, the public seems to be coming to the conclusion that “of course it had problems, it was launched during a government shutdown, as Republicans tried to unfund it.”

    That’s sketchier, because most of the roll-out was funded … but the GOP can hardly come back that it was fully funded and fully supported.

  18. C. Clavin says:

    @ JP…
    I’m fine with the roll-out…glitches are to be expected. And anything can always be better.
    But if I was the opposition party I could spin some BS.
    My point is that they have blown the chance at even spinning it….whilst tilting at windmills.

  19. legion says:

    @gVOR08:

    I think the GOPs are huddling over how big a fig leaf they can ask for.

    I think it depends on who you are. the so-called “moderate” Repubs think they’re going to let the Teahadists twist in the breeze – they realize now that the Obamacare train has long since left the gates & cannot be called back, even by legislative asshattery.

    The Teahadists, OTOH, are now setting their sights on the debt limit. It is absolutely certain that, no matter what happens with the CRs, no matter what deal gets brokered to get us over this hurdle, those *sshats will try to hold the country hostage all over again about defaulting on our debts at their earliest opportunity. The only question is exactly what they’ll demand _this_ time.

  20. john personna says:

    @C. Clavin:

    For sure, they could have played it better.

    The best possible course would have been to pretend sympathy for Obamacare for the couple weeks leading up and then “wait a minute, this is terrible!”

  21. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @al-Ameda:

    Assuming that they cut a short term deal to avoid default and extend the debt limit, the same morons who engineered this fiasco will again have an opportunity very soon to revisit this bulls***. It’s hard to be optimistic when you’re dealing with these idiots.

    A part of me is dead set against a short term deal. But there is another part of me that is cautiously optimistic. I have a hard time believing Boehner, McConnell, Cantor, etc would allow Ted Cruz to ride the TP caucus right back into another disastrous shutdown. At least not after only 6 weeks. The short attention span Tea Party might forget how they got their clocks cleaned and Cruz might actually be deluded enough to buy his own BS, but Dems won’t forget, independents won’t forget, businesses won’t forget, and neither will B, M, & C.

    These guys don’t just want to win re-election, they want the power that comes with leadership. Something that now could very well be in doubt.

  22. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @john personna:

    On the other hand, the public seems to be coming to the conclusion that “of course it had problems, it was launched during a government shutdown, as Republicans tried to unfund it.”

    On the other hand, the Republicans have stood in the way of any and all fixes to the ACA including (IIRC) additional funds for the roll-out.

  23. MikeSJ says:

    I’d offer the Medical Device Tax in exchange for a permanent end to the Debt Ceiling Law.

    The Republicans can say they did something to satisfy, well, somebody…and Obama would have removed a weapon that could crash the economy. A win – win for everyone.

    But no short term deals. The hostage crisis has to end.

  24. john personna says:

    @MikeSJ:

    Any rational conversation about debt has to be about curves over time, projected revenue and spending, combining into a long term picture.

    The Republicans have drilled a very different story into their supporters, that “debt” is a number that is fought about once a year (or whatever) and that the battle, and level, determines the outcome.

    It is economically illiterate, or even just numerically illiterate, to do it that way … but now they are trapped.

    The right wing thinks the debt limit is how you control government, and so it can NEVER be yielded.

  25. David M says:

    @john personna:

    I have it on good authority that we have a spending problem, not a revenue problem.

  26. C. Clavin says:

    David M…
    The extreme right wing entertainment complex is not a good authority.
    Tax rates are at historic lows.
    The deficit is dropping like a stone.
    We have a net loss of public sector jobs every month.
    Spending is not our problem. We are not spending enough. Austerity during a recovery is retarded. It makes as much sense as supply-side economics…none.

    But it’s Friday…so OK….show me a similar economy in a similar political system that has experienced healthy growth while at the same time drastically shrinking the public sector. Until then…your good authority is total BS.

  27. David M says:

    @C. Clavin:

    You may have missed the sarcasm, I was referring to our resident trolls.

  28. C. Clavin says:

    Doh…
    My bad…

  29. john personna says:

    @David M:

    You may have missed the sarcasm, I was referring to our resident trolls.

    We don’t even have resident crickets at this point. Silence.

    Really conservative advocates have dropped to silence in waves. First the RINOs went quiet, then the semi-rational people who believed or at least pretended to believe in the Fox/Limbaugh world, and then finally the raving nutters for whom Fox/Limbaugh was their last best connection to reality.

    Silence.

    Which is pretty bad.

    (Of course over at The American Conservative it looks better, and people there able to argue a conservatism not encompassed by current Republicanism. This gives them a much freer hand to call BS when they should.)

  30. Steve V says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: The AM radio talkers (well, Mark Levin at least) seemed to have moved off of “communist” and switched to “statist” lately. Progress, eh?

    If Boehner caves and they raise the debt limit (and open the government?), it will just be seen by the base as a failure to be sufficiently conservative. In talk radio land, they were winning this.

  31. Jeremy R says:

    @Doug:

    For another, it seems pretty clear that Republicans are going to require some kind of real guarantee of substantive talks over the next six weeks, otherwise it’s likely to be hard to persuade Republicans already skeptical of the Administration and their own leadership to sign onto a plan that requires a tremendous among of trust up front.

    Again, they had this for free without a shutdown, and even during the shutdown as the Dems kept offering legislation that both passed the “clean CR” and appointed conferees for regular order conference committee negotiations to resolve the differences between the Senate & House Budgets. For example (10/02/13):

    http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/senate/326161-gop-senator-objects-to-budget-conference-committee

    Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) objected Wednesday to a Democratic proposal to fund the government and form a budget conference committee.

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) offered Republicans an opportunity to go to conference on a budget after the House passes the Senate continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government through Nov. 15.

    This was the 19th time Senate Democrats have asked to form a budget conference committee.

    So either the Republicans caused all this hardship for no reason as they already had what they’re now asking for, or they have no intention of ever going to Conference Committee over the House/Senate budgets because they’re terrified someone might actually be successful and compromise.

    Weigel: The GOP’s Final Offer: Republicans were open to compromise—as soon as there was no chance that compromise was possible

    The problem with “regular order,” as pleasant as it sounded, was that any product it produced would disappoint conservatives. Budget reconciliation, where only 51 votes are required for approval, might be able to produce entitlement reforms, but it might produce additional taxes. Republicans just didn’t know what they might be asked to vote for at the end of the process, apart from, surely, the continuance of Obamacare. And that uncertainty gummed up the works. The same problem crippled the immigration reform push—after the Senate passed its comprehensive bill, Republicans worried that any immigration bill, when it got to conference, could be turned into “amnesty.”

  32. legion says:

    @MikeSJ:

    But no short term deals. The hostage crisis has to end.

    Actually, I disagree. A short-term deal would get the gov’t back to work again and stop this pointlessly counterproductive throttling of the neediest among us. Yes, the GOP will come right back and hold the debt ceiling hostage, but frankly, there’s no realistic scenario where that _doesn’t_ happen. And if the Teahadists want to extend their slow-motion flushing of the Republican Brand well into 2014, so that more voters will have this disgrace more recently in mind come next November, I’m ok with that.

  33. Steve V says:

    @Jeremy R: Right, they do not want to compromise with Obama over anything. That’s why it’s so funny to hear them rant on this last week about how “Obama won’t negotiate!” In ordinary times, if they negotiated with Obama they’d get primaried.

    Since this whole episode has been turned by the GOP into a campaign to get Obama to the negotiating table, it’ll be interesting to see what they do after normalcy returns.