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New GOP shutdown/debt plan, but no agreement yet

By Alan Fram & David Espo

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 08:17 a.m. HST, Oct 11, 2013

WASHINGTON » House Republicans are offering to pass legislation to avert a default and end the 11-day partial government shutdown as part of a framework that would include cuts in benefit programs, officials said today.

Republicans also seek changes in the three-year-old health care law known as Obamacare as part of an end to an impasse that has roiled financial markets and idled 350,000 federal workers.

President Barack Obama has insisted he will not negotiate with Republicans over federal spending — or anything else — until the government is reopened and the $16.7 debt limit raised to avert the possibility of default.

Yet, regarding benefit programs, Obama has previously backed an increase in Medicare costs for better-off seniors, among other items, and that idea also has appeal for Republicans.

The White House appeared briefly to wobble on the issue of negotiations on Thursday, until Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid emerged from a meeting with the president to reaffirm it emphatically.

The House Republicans' plan was outlined Thursday night in a White House meeting that included senior aides to Obama as well as to House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, several hours after Obama met with top Republicans.

Without confirming any of the details under discussion, Cantor said, "We're waiting to hear" from administration officials.

In addition to ending the shutdown and increasing the debt limit, under the proposal Congress and the White House would explore ways to ease across-the-board federal budget cuts that began taking effect a year ago, and replace at least part of them with benefit-program curbs that have been included in recent presidential budgets. Officials who described the approach did so on condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to discuss private conversations.

With the weekend approaching, and the deadline for raising the debt limit five days away, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said it was time to "put this hysterical talk of default behind us and instead start talking about finding solutions to the problems."

A short while later, McConnell led Senate Republicans into a meeting with Obama at the White House, a session that lasted about 90 minutes.

Additionally, the House voted 248-176 to provide funds for nuclear arms research and security despite the shutdown. It was the latest GOP bill aimed at reviving popular programs during the shutdown — and the latest to die in the Senate, where Reid has rejected bills that fall short of fully reopening the government.

While much of the attention has been focused on the House in recent days, McConnell and other Republicans have been exploring possible legislation to avert the default and end the shutdown and to require the White House to make relatively modest concessions on the health care law. Among the possibilities is a repeal of a medical device tax in the law, or perhaps stronger income verification requirements for individuals who receive federal subsidies to purchase coverage.

Determined to resolve the twin crises, the Republicans have reached out to senior Democrats, including New York Sen. Chuck Schumer.

Senate Majority Leader Reid rejected the notion of a six-week increase in the nation's borrowing authority, pressing not only for a longer, 15-month measure but a reopening of the government.

Thursday's talks were held shortly before a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll was released bearing ominous news for the GOP. It showed more people blaming Republicans than Obama for the shutdown, 53 percent to 31 percent. Just 24 percent viewed the GOP positively, compared with 39 percent with positive views of the Democratic Party.

Boehner, R-Ohio, brought a proposal to Thursday's White House meeting to extend federal borrowing authority through Nov. 22, conditioned on Obama's agreeing to negotiate over spending cuts and the government shutdown. But participants said the discussion expanded to ways to quickly end the shutdown, which entered its 11th day today.

"It's clear he'd like to have the shutdown stopped," House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., said of Obama. "And we're trying to find out what he would insist upon" to reopen the government "and what we would insist upon."

One major problem for Boehner's plan was highlighted by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. After he and fellow Senate Democrats had their own White House meeting with Obama, Reid said negotiations before the government reopens — a key part of Boehner's proposal — were "not going to happen."

The shutdown has idled 350,000 civil servants, prevented the Social Security Administration from revealing next year's cost-of-living increase for recipients and curtailed many consumer safety inspections. Officials warn of deeper cutbacks in services if it goes on.

The Obama administration has warned that the government will exhaust its borrowing authority on Oct. 17 and risk being unable to pay its bills and facing default.

"It would be a grave mistake" to ignore the risks to the U.S. and world economy that a default would raise, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew warned the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday.

House Republicans' insistence on spending cuts and deficit reduction come with the 2013 budget shortfall expected to drop below $700 billion after four years exceeding $1 trillion annually.

But their insistence on cuts in the health care law as the price for reopening government has frustrated many Senate Republicans, who see that battle as unwinnable.

Associated Press writers Julie Pace, Jim Kuhnhenn, Andrew Taylor and Donna Cassata contributed to this report.

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bsdetection wrote:
While you watch this Kabuki theatre, it's important to remember that every single Republican in the House voted for the Ryan budget which would add $1,000,000,000,000 to the deficit. They really are a neo-Confederate party which, driven by Fox News, has become so obsessed with hating government that they don't know what they stand for. Ironically, their political base is in the former Confederate states, many of which receive far more from the Federal Government than they pay in. Those red states are, on a large scale, welfare-dependent, but they love to claim that they hate welfare.
on October 11,2013 | 05:42AM
BluesBreaker wrote:
Obama is caving . . . again. He always folds his cards when negotiations get serious. Harry Reid is the only one who is taking the correct stand toward House Republican with regard to hostage taking: no negotiations on budget issues until the debt ceiling is raised and the shutdown ends, with no strings attached.
on October 11,2013 | 06:34AM
CriticalReader wrote:
I think it's different this time and for the rest of the Obama Presidency. This whole episode has thus far done four things: 1) The GOP./Tea Party politics of fear have been rendered ineffective. The general American population finally called "BS", and for at least the next two years, GOP/Tea Party pronouncements of what may or may not be "good" for the country will have far less credibility. One HUGE dynamic will be the coming comparison between and focus upon what the GOP has been demanding, what they've already got, and the consequences on real people for whatever they do extract from here on out. Up to two weeks ago, they had received a veritable pass on that analysis in order to quell the whining and effects of fear politics. 2) America has received a graphic message and image of the true potential for damage to people and the nation reflected in the GOP/Tea Party message. The damage, America is learning, does not come from what the GOP/Tea Party says is wrong. The actual damage comes from what it does in pursuit of its ideology. The GOP/Tea Party has managed to make itself the object of fear - the exact opposite effect of its overall strategy; 3) Obama has been very "Presidential". He stood up to terror, and embodied in Obamacare, he stood up for what he believed in. For that image, he can actually thank the GOP/Tea Party. They have given him lots and lots of credibility; and, 4) America has a well defined understanding of GOP/Tea Party "leadership" values. Who does America want to follow? The GOP/Tea Party over the cliff, or, not to be too melodramatic, Obama and the Dems to the "promised land"? #4 creates the overall new environment in Washington. And, it couldn't have happened at a better time for Obama.
on October 11,2013 | 07:29AM
CriticalReader wrote:
Now the GOP pivots to "spending cuts", but doesn't release the hostage. Stupid. They have a chance on the wisdom of spending cuts, but not if they do it by inflicting manufactured and unnecessary pain. That tactic simply erodes credibility. You really have to wonder whether or not these guys are dealing with full decks.
on October 11,2013 | 07:57AM
retire wrote:
2014, boycott all encumbants.
on October 11,2013 | 08:20AM
HD36 wrote:
Obama says raising the debt ceiling does not increase the debt. I guess he figures they will increase the debt ceiling but spend less? Of course not. He has to increase the debt limit so the government can spend more. Which means the government must borrow more. Which means someone must lend us more. Which means at some point we gotta pay it back or default. Which means they either gotta print more money and or raise taxes much much higher. The sooner we cut civil servants the faster they'll be able to find productive jobs. Too many people now in the cart and not enough pulling it.
on October 11,2013 | 08:47AM
Kaimiloa wrote:
Not trying to take away from your point about how we spend our money, but.... Raising the debt ceiling has nothing to do with increasing government spending. It only has to do with being able to pay debts that we've already incurred. It does not allow for the government to increase spending on future budget items.
on October 11,2013 | 11:14AM
CriticalReader wrote:
Agree. My understanding is that current spending levels are already set, both in terms of already determined appropriations/program obligations, and interest payments on accumulated debt. Not raising the debt ceiling places payment of already determined appropriations and program obligations at risk, as well as payment of interest and on maturing debt instruments. Not raising the debt ceiling WON'T reduce the amount of obligations. It will merely prevent the US from obtaining enough money to pay pre-existing obligations. So, without a debt ceiling raise, the question will become HOW TO ALLOCATE AVAILABLE RESOURCES (short of borrowing - which the debt ceiling would permit). There is a very strong argument that Section 4 of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution prohibits the US from defaulting on its debt. So, absent a debt ceiling increase, what's a Federal Administration to do? Well, pay the debt, which pretty much includes Social Security, amounts already owed under programs, etc. Then? Well, seems to me that the only remaining alternative then is for the President to then allocate funds in his discretion (WHICH IS ENTIRELY CONSISTENT WITH THE GOP/TEA PARTY's VIEW when it says to the President, "How DARE YOU CLOSE THE MEMORIALS - OPEN THEM!!"). At that point, I think the President should start shutting down operations one by one, or batch by batch to the levels of available remaining non-borrowed resources. Would the President's exercise of discretion lead to shut down of massive levels of employment and services in Tea Party represented Districts? I would hope not (wink).
on October 11,2013 | 11:44AM
Jonas wrote:
The whole economy is based on debt. The Central Bank is the evil party here - they lend money to the govt - in turn the govt lends to banks, which then lend to consumers. Increase in money supply increases inflation and increases debt and raises the deficit. It's all correlated.
on October 11,2013 | 11:42AM
eoe wrote:
HD, does somebody pay you to write ignorant comments or you actually come up with these on your own?
on October 11,2013 | 12:58PM
tinapa wrote:
Hallelujah!!!!!While the Republicans melt under the heat of the public's wrath, the President is glowing like a newly lit candle. The President must continue to insist that they open the government without any precondition and the debt limit extension should be at least 6 months instead of the 6 weeks proposed by the GOP, before he agrees to negotiate. I support the President's willingness to revamp some of the controversial provisions in the ACA, such as repeal of the medical device tax and requiring all congressional members excluding their staff to acquire their health insurance from the exchanges without any subsidy from their employer.
on October 11,2013 | 09:26AM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
They are all procrastinating until October 17 because all solutions are not acceptable. Then they can blame time for running out.
on October 11,2013 | 09:31AM
CriticalReader wrote:
If you're talking about that being the GOP grand strategy, you're right. But, even that is enormously stupid. Further damage will be done beforehand, probably to the momentum of the economy, but DEFINITELY to the GOP as a whole. They need to cut their losses now jsut to continue existing as one of only two parties in the two party system.
on October 11,2013 | 09:49AM
Kuniarr wrote:
Obama has nothing to lose as a term limit on the presidency automatically ends Obama's term in 2016. Those seeking re-election in 2014 are the ones who'd win or lose in this crisis.
on October 11,2013 | 11:54AM
earlson wrote:
Won't get a deal until Pres acts presidential for the country rather than for his own ego. Can't keep saying no compromise
on October 11,2013 | 12:44PM
hanalei395 wrote:
"Compromise" to Republicans means .....shutdown Obamacare or the government will continue to be shutdown.
on October 11,2013 | 01:02PM
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