President, Dems split on strategy

Senate Democrats and President Obama have split over important strategic decisions in the battle to raise the debt ceiling.

Senate Democrats want to increase the nation’s borrowing authority for more than a year, taking Congress through the mid-term election.

Obama seemed to undercut them Tuesday afternoon when he said he could support a short-term legislation to fund government and raise the debt limit. 

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He also embraced attaching a mandated, bipartisan budget process to legislation that would increase the debt ceiling and open the government. That came hours after House Republicans offered legislation that would create a new debt panel, which was quickly panned by congressional Democrats.

At about the same time the president was holding his press conference, Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidGOP frustrated by slow pace of Trump staffing This week: Congress awaits Comey testimony Will Republicans grow a spine and restore democracy? MORE (D-Nev.) announced to colleagues his intention to move legislation to authorize more than a year’s worth of additional borrowing power.

Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerBoehner: Tax reform is 'just a bunch of happy talk' Lobbying World Jordan won't run for Oversight gavel MORE (R-Ohio) on Tuesday said he is not interested in a short-term deal. But the fact that Obama left the door open to something Reid doesn’t support suggests the White House and congressional Democrats are not completely on the same page.

Congressional Democrats are generally pleased that Reid has been calling the shots. They claim that Obama did not cut a good deal during the last debt-limit debate in 2011.

Now, Obama is front and center again. His press conference with reporters, which lasted more than an hour, was his first since the government shuttered last week.

Senate Democratic Whip Dick DurbinDick DurbinThe Hill's 12:30 Report Top House, Senate Dems ask Interior not to eliminate national monuments Dem senators accuse Trump of purposefully holding back information MORE (Ill.) has criticized a short-term debt-limit increase as merely lurching to the next crisis.

“We’re not going to be in the situation where you’re lurching from crisis to crisis and putting the full faith and credit [of the government] at the hands of a Republican caucus that can’t get its act together,” a senior Senate Democratic aide told The Hill last month.

Another Democratic staffer, however, disagreed there is much daylight with the administration.

“They fully support our position,” the aide said.

While administration officials would prefer a longer-term debt-ceiling increase, the aide noted, Obama said Tuesday he would sign a short-term increase if one came to his desk without any noxious policy riders attached.  

Reid’s bill would push the debt limit to December 31, 2014.

Some Democrats also disagree with Obama’s decision to rule out using authority under the 14th Amendment to raise the debt limit unilaterally.

“I think he should keep that option open,” Sen. Chris MurphyChris MurphySenate gears up for fight on Trump's 0B Saudi Arabia arms sale Dem rep jokes ‘body slammed’ reporter lucky GOP healthcare plan isn’t in place yet GOP senators distance themselves from House ObamaCare repeal bill MORE (D-Conn.) said.

“I’ve always been supportive the president should keep that as a tool,” Sen. Mark BegichMark BegichPerez creates advisory team for DNC transition The future of the Arctic 2016’s battle for the Senate: A shifting map MORE (D-Alaska) said. “It’s pretty clear to me in the 14th Amendment that the president has an obligation to make sure our debts are paid.

“I know there’s disagreement, but I think the Constitution is pretty clear on that,” he added.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) has also pressed Obama to reserve the right to increase borrowing authority unilaterally.

“I think the 14th Amendment covers it. The president and I have a disagreement in that regard, I guess,” Pelosi told reporters last month. “I would never have taken that off the table.”

Obama reiterated on Tuesday that he doesn’t believe he has the power to raise the debt limit, adding that litigation about invoking the 14th Amendment would hamper the economy.

Meanwhile, Reid plans to move a clean bill to raise the debt limit and Democrats think they will have enough votes to overcome a Republican filibuster.

Two Senate Republicans, Sens. Mark KirkMark KirkTaking the easy layup: Why brain cancer patients depend on it The Mideast-focused Senate letter we need to see The way forward on the Iran nuclear deal under President Trump MORE (Ill.) and Thad CochranThad CochranCongressional politics hurts cotton farmers GOP senators dismiss Trump filibuster change Ryan touts spending deal for breaking 'Obama rules' for defense MORE (Miss.), have told reporters they could support clean legislation to raise the debt limit.

A GOP aide clarified that Kirk would support a short-term debt-limit increase to give congressional leaders more time to negotiate. But he would not support the Democratic effort to push the debt ceiling beyond the 2014 election without significant spending reform, the aide added. 

A handful of other Republicans remains undecided, including Sens. Susan CollinsSusan CollinsSenate takes lead on Trump’s infrastructure proposal Navy leaders defend Trump's lackluster ship budget Overnight Healthcare: CBO fallout | GOP senators distance themselves from House bill | Trump budget chief blasts score | Schumer says House bill belongs 'in the trash' MORE (Maine), Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiOvernight Finance: Dems introduce minimum wage bill | Sanders clashes with Trump budget chief | Border tax proposal at death's door Overnight Energy: Trump energy nominees face Congress | OPEC to extend production cuts Senators air grievances on Trump energy budget, delays MORE (Alaska) and Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderOvernight Regulation: Appeals court upholds injunction on Trump travel ban | GOP bill would scrap 'micro-unions' Republicans introduce bill to scrap 'micro-unions' Overnight Healthcare: CBO fallout | GOP senators distance themselves from House bill | Trump budget chief blasts score | Schumer says House bill belongs 'in the trash' MORE (Tenn.).

“I’m going to listen today and make a decision when I hear what people say,” Alexander said.

“I don’t know. It depends where, when and how, and I don’t know that we have any of that signed at this point in time,” Murkowski said.

Sen. John McCainJohn McCainArmed Services chairman unveils .1B Asia-Pacific security bill Overnight Defense: Trump scolds NATO allies over spending | Flurry of leaks worries allies | Senators rip B Army 'debacle' | Lawmakers demand hearing on Saudi arms deal The case for protecting America's intelligence agency whistleblowers MORE (R-Ariz.) said on Fox News he will vote no, pointing out Reid’s measure won’t go anywhere in the House. McCain said he is huddling with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in an attempt to strike a deal.

Senate Minority Whip John CornynJohn CornynRepublicans go to battle over pre-existing conditions Senate panel could pass new Russia sanctions this summer Senate staff to draft health bill during recess MORE (R-Texas) declined to say whether he would make any effort to whip his colleagues to defeat Reid’s effort to pass a clean yearlong debt-limit extension.

“He’s not filed anything yet, so we’re not going to do it hypothetically,” Cornyn said of Reid’s plans.

Democrats feel confident that at least six Senate Republicans would prefer to advance a clean yearlong debt limit than risk being blamed for a federal default.

“It’ll be close,” Begich said. “I’m confident that even though we may have our differences, the sides are not going to let the government default. That would be economic suicide.”

Vulnerable incumbent Democrats facing reelection next year, including Begich, Sens. Mark PryorMark PryorMedicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Cotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm MORE (Ark.) and Mary LandrieuMary LandrieuMedicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Five unanswered questions after Trump's upset victory Pavlich: O’Keefe a true journalist MORE (La.) said Tuesday they would support clean legislation to raise the debt limit.

The only Democrat who wavered was Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinConvicted ex-coal exec appeals case to Supreme Court Sanders, Democrats introduce minimum wage bill Overnight Energy: Trump energy nominees face Congress | OPEC to extend production cuts MORE, the centrist from West Virginia, who said it would make sense to also discuss deficit reduction in connection to the debt limit.

Sen. Charles SchumerCharles SchumerOvernight Finance: Dems introduce minimum wage bill | Sanders clashes with Trump budget chief | Border tax proposal at death's door GOP senators distance themselves from House ObamaCare repeal bill McConnell: CBO analysis for House bill will repeat 'things we already know' MORE (N.Y.), the third- ranking Senate Democratic leader, predicted his caucus would stay unified.

“I believe we’ll get just about every Democrat,” he said. “It’s going to get overwhelming how bad this is. A government shutdown is serious, but this is cataclysm, and people know that.”

Several Republicans said they would be more willing to vote for a short-term increase of the debt limit to give Congress more time to negotiate. But any extension lasting more than a few weeks must be paired with legislation to cut the deficit. 

“I’d do a short-term debt limit increase say for 30 or 45 days so we can come up with a bigger deal,” Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamSenate panel could pass new Russia sanctions this summer Overnight Cybersecurity: Bad Russian intel may have swayed Comey's handling of Clinton probe | Apple sees spike in data requests | More subpoenas for Flynn | DOJ's plan for data warrants Overnight Finance: GOP bill would leave 23M more uninsured, says CBO | Trump aides defend budget | Mnuchin asks for clean debt hike before August | Ryan says House could pass bill without border tax MORE (R-S.C.) said.  

Sen. Saxby ChamblissSaxby ChamblissGOP hopefuls crowd Georgia special race Democrats go for broke in race for Tom Price's seat Spicer: Trump will 'help the team' if needed in Georgia special election MORE (R-Ga.) also said he would support a clean short-term debt-limit increase.

He said he would support a long-term increase only if “something major is attached to it.”

“But I’m not committed to what that ought to be,” he added.

Pete Schroeder and Erik Wasson contributed.