Obama shops around as GOP offers multiple debt-hike plans

Obama shops around as GOP offers multiple debt-hike plans

President Obama seemed to go comparison-shopping on Friday as he met with Senate Republicans to discuss their proposals for ending the government shutdown and raising the debt ceiling.
 
Obama did most of the talking but also took questions from GOP senators who rode buses down Pennsylvania Avenue to meet on the president’s turf.
 

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The Republican senators used their time to try to eke out details of the bargaining that had happened the previous evening between Obama and House negotiators. GOP senators are pushing their own plans to open the government and raise the debt ceiling.
 
“We tried to find out what was said at the meeting with the House,” said Sen. Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranDoug Jones to become only Dem senator with black chief of staff Congress should stand for rural America by enhancing broadband connectivity Immigrant entrepreneurs are vital to American prosperity MORE (R-Kan.), who did not characterize the meeting as a negotiation. 

“There were a lot of questions and comments, and it seems to me there is significant conversations about the framework of a deal, but I didn’t see anything that suggested a deal was imminent,” he added.
 
"He was clear that he was having discussions with the House. He wasn't trying to say that he was going to reach some agreement independent of them," Sen. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteLessons from Alabama: GOP, throw out the old playbook The Hill's 12:30 Report Explaining Democratic victories: It’s gun violence, stupid MORE (R-N.H.) said.

House Republicans have sent the White House the framework of a deal that would raise the debt ceiling for six weeks and set up immediate negotiations to end the government shutdown.

House GOP leaders say they have yet to receive a response to the offer, and details of the plan are being kept under wraps.
 
Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMcCain rips Trump for attacks on press NSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle Meghan McCain says her father regrets opposition to MLK Day MORE (R-Ariz.) said the House plan did not come up at the Senate GOP's meeting with Obama, adding, "I don't quite understand it.”
 
"The president is very reluctant to commit to anything because he has to deal with the House of Representatives," he added.

Senate Republicans are eager for the government shutdown to end, fearing it could squander their chance to win a majority in 2014. The GOP's approval ratings have fallen to record lows in two major polls.

“There are two active negotiations going on,” said a source with knowledge of the meeting. “One is between House Republicans and the White House and the other is between Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsDemocrats search for 51st net neutrality vote Overnight Tech: States sue FCC over net neutrality repeal | Senate Dems reach 50 votes on measure to override repeal | Dems press Apple on phone slowdowns, kids' health | New Android malware found Overnight Regulation: Dems claim 50 votes in Senate to block net neutrality repeal | Consumer bureau takes first step to revising payday lending rule | Trump wants to loosen rules on bank loans | Pentagon, FDA to speed up military drug approvals MORE and some Senate Democrats.”
 
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said the president seemed receptive to her proposal to reopen the government, repeal the medical device tax and give federal agencies more flexibility to manage the automatic cuts known as sequestration. Her plan would lock in the $967 billion funding level set by the Budget Control Act.
 
Collins said Obama discussed her proposal at length during the meeting.
 
“He said it was constructive, but I don’t want to give the impression that he endorsed it. He said there were elements of it that he liked,” she said.
 
She noted that interest among Senate Democrats in her idea is growing.
 
The president played the role of an aloof buyer, showing up 20 minutes late, according to a source with knowledge of the meeting.
 
Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanFlake's anti-Trump speech will make a lot of noise, but not much sense Top GOP candidate drops out of Ohio Senate race Overnight Tech: Regulators to look at trading in bitcoin futures | Computer chip flaws present new security problem | Zuckerberg vows to improve Facebook in 2018 MORE (R-Ohio) has pushed including in any deal an income-verification requirement for people who apply for federal subsidies through the healthcare exchanges set up by ObamaCare.
 
Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerSenate campaign fundraising reports roll in Congress should take the lead on reworking a successful Iran deal North Korea tensions ease ahead of Winter Olympics MORE (R-Tenn.) has advocated for a plan to attach mandatory spending reform to any deal to open the government and raise the debt limit.
 
Freshman Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzWith religious liberty memo, Trump made America free to be faithful again Interstate compacts aren't the right way to fix occupational licensing laws Texas Dem: ‘I don’t know what to believe’ about what Trump wants for wall MORE (R-Texas), who has spearheaded the push to tie government funding to the defunding of ObamaCare, called on the president to agree to GOP demands to curtail the landmark law.
 
Colleagues characterized the exchange as cordial.
 
“There was an awful lot of talking and the president still says he won’t negotiate,” Cruz said. “I hope they will see reason, I hope they will come together, fund the government and provide real relief to the millions of Americans who are hurting from ObamaCare.”
 
“I urged him to do exactly that,” he added.
 
The most heated exchange came between Obama and Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoTrump’s infrastructure plan may slip to next month Overnight Finance: Trump, lawmakers take key step to immigration deal | Trump urges Congress to bring back earmarks | Tax law poised to create windfall for states | Trump to attend Davos | Dimon walks back bitcoin criticism Trump's infrastructure team to huddle with senators MORE (R-Wyo.), who assailed the president’s signature healthcare initiative.
 
“Barrasso stood up and really brought the heat on ObamaCare and the horrible rollout and really challenge the president on the individual mandate,” said a source familiar with the meeting. 

One Senate Republican characterized the meeting as a waste of time.

“What could have been a productive conversation was instead another predictable lecture from the president that did not lay out a new path forward," Sen. John CornynJohn CornynMcCarthy: ‘No deadline on DACA’ NSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle Hoyer suggests Dems won't support spending bill without DACA fix MORE (R-Texas) said in a statement.

Back at the Capitol, Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) said there is some frustration in House GOP that they are at risk of being undercut by their colleagues in the Senate.

He said BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerDems face hard choice for State of the Union response Even some conservatives seem open to return to earmarks Overnight Finance: Trump, lawmakers take key step to immigration deal | Trump urges Congress to bring back earmarks | Tax law poised to create windfall for states | Trump to attend Davos | Dimon walks back bitcoin criticism MORE was making progress on an deficit deal with Obama in 2011 until the Gang of Six Senate plan caused Obama to seek too much revenue.

"It's like you are seeing history repeat itself," he said.
 
Erik Wasson, Emily Goodin and Bernie Becker contributed.

This story was last updated at 4:00 p.m.