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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 Mason ReidWATCH: There is no Trump-Russia collusion and the media should stop pushing this The demise of debate in Congress ‘North by Northwest,’ the Carter Page remake 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 Andrew BoehnerRestoring fiscal sanity requires bipartisan courage GOP congressman slams primary rival for Ryan donations Speculation swirls about Kevin McCarthy’s future 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 DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinAmerica’s waning commitment to the promise of the First Amendment Senate rejects Trump immigration plan What to watch for in the Senate immigration votes 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 MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyLawmakers feel pressure on guns Trump to take steps to ban bump stocks Kasich’s campaign website tones down gun language after Florida shooting MORE (D-Conn.) said.

“I’ve always been supportive the president should keep that as a tool,” Sen. Mark BegichMark Peter 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 Steven KirkHigh stakes as Trump heads to Hill Five things to watch for at Trump-Senate GOP meeting Giffords, Scalise highlight party differences on guns MORE (Ill.) and Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranOvernight Finance: Breaking down Trump's budget | White House finally releases infrastructure plan | Why it faces a tough road ahead | GOP, Dems feud over tax-cut aftermath | Markets rebound McConnell tees up budget deal McConnell urging Mississippi gov to appoint himself if Cochran resigns: report 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 Margaret CollinsOvernight Tech: Judge blocks AT&T request for DOJ communications | Facebook VP apologizes for tweets about Mueller probe | Tech wants Treasury to fight EU tax proposal Overnight Regulation: Trump to take steps to ban bump stocks | Trump eases rules on insurance sold outside of ObamaCare | FCC to officially rescind net neutrality Thursday | Obama EPA chief: Reg rollback won't stand FCC to officially rescind net neutrality rules on Thursday MORE (Maine), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiThe siren of Baton Rouge Interior plan to use drilling funds for new projects met with skepticism The 14 GOP senators who voted against Trump’s immigration framework MORE (Alaska) and Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderOvernight Health Care: Trump health chief backs CDC research on gun violence | GOP negotiators meet on ObamaCare market fix | Groups sue over cuts to teen pregnancy program GOP negotiators meet on ObamaCare market fix 30 million people will experience eating disorders — the CDC needs to help 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 Sidney McCainLawmakers worry about rise of fake video technology Democrats put Dreamers and their party in danger by playing hardball Trump set a good defense budget, but here is how to make it better 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 CornynLawmakers feel pressure on guns Kasich’s campaign website tones down gun language after Florida shooting Murphy: Trump’s support for background check bill shows gun politics ‘shifting rapidly’ 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 Lunsford 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 Loretta LandrieuProject Veritas at risk of losing fundraising license in New York, AG warns You want to recall John McCain? Good luck, it will be impossible CNN producer on new O'Keefe video: Voters are 'stupid,' Trump is 'crazy' MORE (La.) said Tuesday they would support clean legislation to raise the debt limit.

The only Democrat who wavered was Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinPavlich: The claim Trump let the mentally ill get guns is a lie Toomey to introduce bill broadening background checks for firearms Scott Walker backs West Virginia attorney general in GOP Senate primary 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 (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDemocrats now attack internet rules they once embraced Schumer: Trump budget would ‘cripple’ gun background checks Schumer: Senate Republicans' silence 'deafening' on guns, Russia 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 Olin GrahamCongress punts fight over Dreamers to March Pence tours Rio Grande between US and Mexico GOP looks for Plan B after failure of immigration measures MORE (R-S.C.) said.  

Sen. Saxby ChamblissClarence (Saxby) Saxby ChamblissLobbying World Former GOP senator: Let Dems engage on healthcare bill OPINION: Left-wing politics will be the demise of the Democratic Party 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.