Work on McConnell-Reid fallback put on ice; onus put on House

Work on McConnell-Reid fallback put on ice; onus put on House

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.) will postpone plans to move on a fallback option to raise the debt limit to give the House a chance to move first.

The delay on a fallback plan significantly increases the pressure on President Obama and House Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerTrump aide: Boehner is the disaster Boehner: Tax reform is 'just a bunch of happy talk' Lobbying World MORE (R-Ohio) to reach a deal by themselves to avoid a national default.

Reid had planned to begin proceedings this weekend on a contingency plan he had negotiated with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellThe Memo: Trump returns to challenges at home Overnight Energy: Trump energy nominees face Congress | OPEC to extend production cuts Senate confirms Trump's first lower-court nominee MORE (Ky.), who floated the original idea.

The legislation would have given Obama nearly unilateral authority to raise the debt limit, cut spending by $1 trillion to $1.5 trillion and set up a special congressional committee to assemble a deficit-reduction package.

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Earlier this week, the leadership’s plan was to move that package through the Senate and then send it to the House, putting intense pressure on House lawmakers to accept it before a potential national default after Aug. 2.

But House Republicans have vowed to defeat it, and conservative Senate Republicans have pledged to do everything they can to oppose it. 

Instead, Reid and McConnell will wait for the possibility of the president and the Speaker striking a debt-limit deal, which would move through the lower chamber first.

“Earlier this week it looked like we needed to go to that fallback plan as soon as possible. It looked earlier this week like the Senate would have to originate the legislation perhaps as soon as today to avoid default,” Reid said on the Senate floor.

Reid said “circumstances have changed” in the wake of media reports that Obama and BoehnerJohn BoehnerTrump aide: Boehner is the disaster Boehner: Tax reform is 'just a bunch of happy talk' Lobbying World MORE are closing in on a $3 trillion deficit-reduction deal that would raise the debt limit and establish a promise to reform the tax code at a later date.

Reid said the House should act first because a prospective deal between Obama and Boehner would include spending and tax measures, noting the Constitution requires such measures to begin in the House.

“The path to avert default now runs through the House of Representatives,” he said. “We in the Senate must wait for them.”

But Boehner on Friday assured House Republicans that he is not on the verge of striking a deal with the White House to raise the debt ceiling.

“Frankly, we are not close to an agreement,” Boehner said. “I would just suggest it is going to be a hot weekend here in Washington, D.C.” 

Waiting for Obama and Boehner to reach a deal could be risky, however. If the agreement fails to materialize, it might be too late to pass a fallback plan to raise the debt limit through the Senate by the Aug. 2 deadline. That's because Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), backed by other conservatives, has vowed to use every procedural tool to delay its consideration.

Reid canceled plans for the Senate to work over the weekend, setting the chamber’s next vote for Monday afternoon.

The Speaker told his members he plans to work all weekend on a deal, and said the House GOP will hold another conference meeting Monday for an update on the talks.

Senators said rumors of a $3 trillion deal have shoved aside the fallback option.

“What’s happening now with the president and John Boehner, that’s the hottest thing in town,” said Sen. Dan CoatsDan CoatsGOP frustrated by slow pace of Trump staffing Budowsky: GOP summer of scandal The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (R-Ind.), acknowledging he doesn’t know if the rumors are rhetoric or reality. “That is sort of eclipsing every other effort at this particular time.”

The president said the pressure to find a deal was on the House.

"The only folks we have left to convince are some folks in the House of Representatives," Obama said at Friday town-hall. "We're going to keep working on that."

Coats said he did not know at this point whether he could support the McConnell-Reid contingency plan. 

Senate Republicans have grown leery of the plan, despite McConnell’s role in crafting it, because of angry complaints from Tea Party voters.

“I cannot be more emphatic in stating my opposition to that,” said Sen. Mike LeeMike LeeRepublicans go to battle over pre-existing conditions Senate gears up for fight on Trump's 0B Saudi Arabia arms sale Senate feels pressure for summer healthcare vote MORE (R-Utah). “As Republicans, we have said from the very beginning of this discussion, since before I even took office, that the one thing we would not be comfortable with would be a clean debt-limit increase.”

Senate Democrats say they have not been given any details from the White House about a potential deal with Boehner, fueling anger and anxiety within their conference.

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“We had Jack LewJack LewWhite House divide may derail needed China trade reform 3 unconventional ways Trump can tackle the national debt One year later, the Iran nuclear deal is a success by any measure MORE in yesterday — we had no clue that even discussions were going on,” said Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne FeinsteinThe case for protecting America's intelligence agency whistleblowers Senate confirms Trump's first lower-court nominee Feinstein: Comey memos 'going to be turned over' MORE (D-Calif.), describing an angry meeting Senate Democrats had the with the White House budget director. “I’ve never seen frustration higher.

“I don’t want to be critical right now of the president; I know what he’s trying to do, but he has to keep his team advised,” she said. “Whether you like it or not, people have to feel they’re part of it.” 

Sen. Jay RockefellerJay RockefellerObama to preserve torture report in presidential papers Lobbying world Overnight Tech: Senators place holds on FCC commissioner MORE (D-W.Va.) said he doesn't know any of the details of the potential deal between Obama and Boehner but is concerned about media reports of it.

"I don't like the sound of it at all, but I don't know what's in it," he said. 

Rockefeller said Democrats unleashed their frustration with the White House at the meeting with Lew on Thursday.

"I've never been in such an intense, high-octane meeting in my life," he said, describing it as "not pleasant" for the White House budget director. 

Reid said he would consider moving other legislation in case an agreement failed to emerge from the talks between the president and House Speaker.