Harkin warns Democrats against caving on 2014 budget level

Lawmakers are at an impasse on a measure to fund the government, which has been shut down for nearly two weeks. They are also working against an Oct. 17 deadline for raising the nation's borrowing limit. 

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The Treasury Department and White House have warned that if the limit is not lifted, the government could default on its debt and cause another economic recession. 

Democrats are pushing for a shorter-term spending bill that would reopen the government, coupled with a long-term extension of the debt ceiling. That would allow Democrats to push for a repeal of the automatic cuts from sequestration in the near future.

Republicans, meanwhile, are touting a proposal from Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) that would keep the sequester in place but allow greater discretion in how it was applied. Her plan would also raise the debt limit and change some aspects of ObamaCare.

Over the weekend, Republicans criticized Democrats for not simply accepting the House budget level, which is nearly $80 billion less than what Senate Democrats proposed and passed. Democrats replaced some of sequestration cuts with new tax revenue.

“The idea that sequestration is some new issue — it’s not. It’s been the issue of the year,” Harkin said. “It’s only a new issue if your memory is two weeks long.”

Congressional leaders were expected to meet with President Obama on Monday to discuss a possible breakthrough.