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) MoranTIMELINE: The GOP's failed effort to repeal ObamaCare The Hill's Whip List: Republicans try again on ObamaCare repeal IT modernization measure included in Senate-approved defense policy bill 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 AyotteDems plan to make gun control an issue in Nevada Stale, misguided, divisive: minimum wage can't win elections Trump voter fraud commission sets first meeting outside DC 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 McCainRubio asks Army to kick out West Point grad with pro-communist posts The VA's woes cannot be pinned on any singular administration Overnight Defense: Mattis offers support for Iran deal | McCain blocks nominees over Afghanistan strategy | Trump, Tillerson spilt raises new questions about N. Korea policy 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 CollinsGun proposal picks up GOP support Giffords, Scalise highlight party differences on guns Agricultural trade demands investment in MAP and FMD 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 PortmanOvernight Cybersecurity: Equifax security employee left after breach | Lawmakers float bill to reform warrantless surveillance | Intel leaders keeping collusion probe open Reddit hires first lobbyists Senate panel approves bill compelling researchers to ‘hack’ DHS 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 CorkerDeficit hawks voice worry over direction of tax plan The Hill Interview: Budget Chair Black sticks around for now Overnight Finance: White House requests B for disaster relief | Ex-Equifax chief grilled over stock sales | House panel approves B for border wall | Tax plan puts swing-state Republicans in tough spot 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 CruzWhatever you think the Alabama special election means, you’re probably wrong This week: Congress gets ball rolling on tax reform Week ahead: Senators work toward deal to fix ObamaCare markets 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 BarrassoDems lambaste Trump’s ‘outrageous’ EPA chemical safety pick Overnight Regulation: EPA misses smog rule deadline | Search is on for new HHS chief | ACLU sues over abortion pill restrictions | Justices weigh gerrymandering Price resignation sets off frenzy of speculation over replacement 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 CornynGun proposal picks up GOP support House bill set to reignite debate on warrantless surveillance Republicans jockey for position on immigration 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 John BoehnerJohn Andrew Boehner‘Lone wolf’ characterization of mass murderers is the epitome of white privilege Pelosi urges Ryan to create select committee on gun violence Ex-congressman Michael Grimm formally announces bid for old seat 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.