Reid, McConnell talk deal (Video)

Reid, McConnell talk deal (Video)
© Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidVirginia was a wave election, but without real change, the tide will turn again Top Lobbyists 2017: Grass roots Boehner confronted Reid after criticism from Senate floor MORE (D-Nev.) and Republican Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellAlabama election has GOP racing against the clock McConnell PAC demands Moore return its money Klobuchar taking over Franken's sexual assault bill MORE (Ky.) are taking the lead on talks to raise the debt limit and reopen the government, according to senators.

Reid and McConnell are working off a six-point proposal sponsored by Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsStates fill family caregiver void left by Congress GOP senator: ObamaCare fix could be in funding bill Collins: Pass bipartisan ObamaCare bills before mandate repeal MORE (R-Maine) that would fund the government for six months and raise the debt ceiling until Jan. 31, 2014.

ADVERTISEMENT
Senators view discussions between the two leaders as a promising sign of potential bipartisan compromise.

“Reid and McConnell are talking now and those discussions continue so I see that as progress,” said Senate Republican Whip John CornynJohn CornynGOP senator: ObamaCare fix could be in funding bill Senate GOP running out of options to stop Moore Texas Republicans slam White House over disaster relief request MORE (R-Texas).

“There are a number of different elements,” he added. “The fact that they’re actually talking for the first time represents significant progress.”

Democrats  said they could not accept the Collins offer as it now stands. 

"I admire Sen. Collins's intent but her six-month CR presents too many problems," said Sen. Barbara MikulskiBarbara MikulskiClinton: White House slow-walking Russia sanctions Top Lobbyists 2017: Hired Guns Gore wishes Mikulski a happy birthday at 'Inconvenient Sequel' premiere MORE (D-Md.), chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

During a Senate vote on Saturday, a large number of Democratic senators huddled around an animated Collins to discuss the situation.

Collins's offer would also delay for two years a tax on medical devices intended to pay for a portion of the healthcare law's costs. It would also strengthen efforts to prevent fraud by people who get tax subsidies to pay for ObamaCare.

GOP senators said talks on a deal to raise the debt ceiling and end the shutdown are now in the Senate, and not the House. 

“The real conversation that matters now is the one that's taking place between McConnell and Reid,” said Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerBannon: McConnell 'picking up his game' because of our 'insurgent movement' State Dept. spokeswoman acknowledges 'morale issue' The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (R-Tenn.). “We're at place where something important has evolved.”

“Earnest" talks between the two Senate party leaders began in the last 24 hours, as talks between the White House and House Republicans fizzled, he said.

Corker said Senate Republicans were providing McConnell with "a lot of support" in the fledgling talks.

However, he also made clear that the Senate would likely move a compromise package, if one emerged, without first clearing it with the Republican majority in the House.

"I'm not sure the House is at a place where they could send something over right now that 218 Republicans agree on, so I think that would be hard to negotiate," he said.

Reid and McConnell met with Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerJuan Williams: The politics of impeachment Texas Republicans slam White House over disaster relief request Dem rep: Trump disaster aid request is 'how you let America down again' MORE (N.Y.), the third-ranking Democratic leader, and Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderGOP senator: ObamaCare fix could be in funding bill Collins: Pass bipartisan ObamaCare bills before mandate repeal Murkowski: ObamaCare fix not a precondition for tax vote MORE (R-Tenn.) Saturday morning to discuss the outlines of a deal.

“My hope is that Sen. McConnell and Sen. Reid will work together to come up with a way for us to open the government and pay our bills and reduce our debt," Alexander said. "And if they can do that over the next few hours, the country will be better off.”

House Republicans worry their GOP colleagues in the upper chamber will cut a deal that does little to undermine ObamaCare and jam them with legislation to raise the debt limit shortly before the Oct. 17 deadline.

Alexander said Senate Republicans are moving ahead, anyway.

“We can’t control the House. We have to do the best we can, send it to the House, and they have to do the best they can,” he said.

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzTexas Republicans slam White House over disaster relief request Dem rep: Trump disaster aid request is 'how you let America down again' Moore endorsements disappear from campaign website MORE (R-Texas) warned GOP leaders not to sign onto any agreement that leaves the healthcare law largely intact.

“Providing significant relief to the millions of Americans who are hurting because of ObamaCare, that should be the focus,” Cruz told reporters.

“Republicans in the House are working to fund vital priorities and they’re also working to provide meaningful relief to the millions of people across this country who have lost their jobs, who have lost their healthcare because of ObamaCare,” he said. “That’s what our focus should be and that’s what I’m urging people both privately and publicly to do.”

Cruz criticized Senate Democrats for not picking up House-passed bills to fund various government agencies during the shutdown.


This story was updated at 1:29 p.m.