House Republicans make new offer to Obama in fiscal fight

Anne Wernikoff

House Republican leaders have offered a new plan to lift the debt ceiling and reopen the government after meeting with President Obama Thursday.

The offer, made late Thursday night, would allow the House to vote as early as Friday on a six-week extension of the debt ceiling, a GOP leadership aide said.

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It would set up immediate negotiations to end the 11-day government shutdown, which would continue into the weekend.

The Republican offer would set up high-level talks on two tracks, the aide said: first, to reopen the government, and second, on a broader budget deal that would fund the government through 2014 and raise the debt ceiling.

“We are waiting to hear back from he White House,” said Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and a participant in the Thursday meeting with Obama. “My sense is we are getting close to getting it done.”

If the president accepts the GOP’s framework, the House could vote Friday on the short-term debt-ceiling hike. The entire House Republican conference also plans to meet at 9 a.m. on Saturday.

The House has passed several measures in recent weeks that would fund the government through Dec. 15, but aides said Friday that the length of the next spending bill would be part of the broader negotiations.

The development comes as Obama is meeting Friday with Senate Republicans, who reacted coolly to Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) proposal Thursday to lift the debt ceiling for six weeks but leave the government closed.

House Republicans do not expect a response from the White House until after Obama’s meeting with Republican senators.

The Thursday meeting with 20 House Republicans did not produce an agreement, but the two sides agreed to talk through the night and into Friday.

House GOP aides and lawmakers took pains to say that negotiations were continuing on the Senate side as well, suggesting that talks between the White House and House Republicans were not the only possible way out.

Senate Republicans are floating a plan that would deal with the debt ceiling and reopen the government immediately.

Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said there would need to be concessions to reopen the government and that he is opposed to any plan that includes a yearlong or six-month continuing resolution that some Senate Republicans are proposing.

“The staff on both sides are trying to isolate the conditions of the CR [continuing resolution],” Rogers said. “A year or even a six-month CR would be disastrous ... it is a punt to the executive branch not to exercise judgment as to where the money is spent.”

He said it has not been decided if the funding bill would be packaged with the debt limit in one vote.

“That has not been decided,” he said.

Rogers indicated that the conference has been influenced by a new Wall Street Journal poll that shows support for the GOP falling to 24 percent, the lowest since 1989.

“We read the newspapers,” he said.

Conservative Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) warned that negotiators better get something for reopening the government.

“There aren't the votes for a clean CR, at least among Republicans,” he told reporters.

Fleming said that some conservatives are against simply including a medical device tax repeal to any continuing resolution since doing so without an offset would add to the deficit and would make “a bad law more palatable.”

— Bernie Becker and Molly K. Hooper contributed to this story.

— This story was last updated at 1:34 p.m.

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