By Alexander Bolton - 10/13/13 01:29 PM EDT
The White House and the Senate are working to squeeze House Republicans into accepting a bipartisan compromise from the upper chamber to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling.
Any emerging deal, however, will leave ObamaCare largely intact, angering conservatives who have demanded defunding or delaying President Obama’s signature achievement.
“They are trying to jam us with the Senate and we are not going to roll over and take that,” House Budget Committee Chairman Paul RyanPaul RyanNew York Times editors back Puerto Rico bill GOP senator to Ryan: 'Trump is where the Republicans are’ Hispanic lawmakers face painful decision on Puerto Rico MORE (R-Wis.) told reporters after a Saturday morning conference meeting.
Senate Democrats reasserted themselves Saturday in the government funding and debt-ceiling debate after talks between Obama and House Republicans collapsed the previous day.
After Obama gave House Republicans reason on Thursday to hope for concessions, Senate Democrats reined those expectations back.
They do not intend to grant Senate Republicans any significant victories in exchange for opening the government or increasing borrowing authority, dimming the possibility of a deal before stock markets open Monday.
Senate Democrats rejected a proposal sponsored by Sens. Susan CollinsSusan CollinsWhy a power grid attack is a nightmare scenario GOP lawmaker: 'Republicans were wrong’ to block Garland Senate passes broad spending bill with .1B in Zika funds MORE (R-Maine), Kelly AyotteKelly AyotteKaine, Murphy push extension of Iran sanctions GOP senators split over Cruz's aid on campaign trail Senate contradicts itself on Gitmo MORE (R-N.H.) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiConservation program at center of energy bill fight Senators float bipartisan wildfire bill Overnight Energy: Lawmakers closing in on chemical safety deal MORE (R-Alaska), which many Senate Republicans hoped could lay the groundwork for a deal.
“It is not going anyplace at this stage,” Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidMcConnell bashes Reid’s ‘inappropriate’ rhetoric Hillary's ObamaCare problem Sanders tests Wasserman Schultz MORE (D-Nev.) told reporters. “Number one, it opens the government; number two, it extends the debt ceiling. But other than that there is little agreement with us.”
Sen. Patty MurrayPatty MurraySenate backs equal pay for female soccer players Feds can learn lessons from states about using data to inform policy Lawmakers blast poultry, meat industries over worker injuries MORE (D-Wash.), chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee, told Collins on the Senate floor the proposal was unacceptable because it would lock in federal spending for six months at the levels set by the House GOP, according to a source familiar with the conversation.
Senate Democrats instead want to craft a budget deal that would eliminate the so-called sequestration levels.
Senate Republicans warn Reid will face a public backlash if he refuses to seriously consider what they consider a pragmatic offer from Collins.
“If they reject a good-faith offer and everybody in the middle would define Collins as a good-faith offer, then the charade that they’re negotiating would fall apart,” said a Senate GOP aide.
The Collins plan would fund the government at an annual rate of $986 billion for six months; extend the debt limit until Jan. 31, 2014; delay the medical device tax for two years and provide federal agencies greater flexibility to manage spending levels under sequestration.
It would also set up an income verification process to prevent fraud in the healthcare insurance exchanges and convene bicameral budget talks with an end-date of Jan. 15, 2014.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara MikulskiBarbara MikulskiSenate backs equal pay for female soccer players Lawmakers push to elevate Cyber Command in Senate defense bill Dems discuss dropping Wasserman Schultz MORE (D-Md.) dismissed a six-month stopgap at House GOP funding levels.
Senate Democratic Whip Dick DurbinDick DurbinSenate contradicts itself on Gitmo Dems to Clinton: Ignore Trump on past scandals How airport security lines got so bad MORE (Ill.) suggested a deal could hinge on getting Republicans to agree to higher funding levels for fiscal year 2014.
“It has to get down to this budget number,” he said.
He downplayed the notion that Reid is preparing to make any significant concessions, however.
“Some would call it negotiation. It is basically staking out positions,” he said.
Durbin said the two-year delay of the medical device tax has received a tepid reception in the Senate Democratic caucus.
“It’s been mixed,” he said. “First, it has to be paid for. Second, I don’t think the elimination is the best way to approach it. We already got a call from the American Hospital Association this week, [who] said, ‘Oh, so we’re going to open all the taxes under the Affordable Care Act.’”
Democrats view funding government and raising the debt-ceiling as congressional responsibilities that do not merit concessions.
“They’re not doing us any favor by reopening the government. They’re not doing us a favor by extending the debt ceiling. That’s part of our jobs,” Reid told reporters.
Senate Republicans, distressed by their party’s plunging approval rating and the danger of a severe reaction in the stock markets Monday, are eager to find their way out of the jam.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellMcConnell: Trump should release his tax returns Adelson aides in talks to make pro-Trump super PAC McConnell bashes Reid’s ‘inappropriate’ rhetoric MORE (R-Ky.), who stayed out of the battle between Senate Democrats and House Republicans over the government shutdown, began the first serious negotiations with Reid Saturday.
They met with Sen. Charles SchumerCharles SchumerSchumer touts policy victories over Obama administration Puerto Rico debt relief faces serious challenges in Senate Overnight Healthcare: House, Senate on collision course over Zika funding MORE (N.Y.), the third-ranking Democratic leader, and Sen. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderMcConnell bashes Reid’s ‘inappropriate’ rhetoric Senate backs equal pay for female soccer players Overnight Healthcare: Momentum on mental health? | Zika bills head to conference | Only 10 ObamaCare co-ops left MORE (R-Tenn.) in Reid’s office at 9 a.m.
Republicans viewed it as a promising sign.
“Reid and McConnell are talking now and those discussions continue so I see that as progress,” said Senate Republican Whip John CornynJohn CornynClinton email headache is about to get worse Overnight Tech: House GOP launches probe into phone, internet subsidies Senators hope for deal soon on mental health bill 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.”
Not all Republicans embraced the Collins plan. Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzJudge unseals documents on Trump University GOP senators move to keep women out of military draft GOP senators split over Cruz's aid on campaign trail MORE (R-Texas), a leading Tea Party voice, warned GOP leaders not to give up the fight to defund ObamaCare.
“Providing significant relief to the millions of Americans who are hurting because of ObamaCare, that should be the focus,” Cruz told reporters.
Alexander said the reaction from House conservatives is not his top concern.
"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.
Democrats downplayed the prospect of reaching a deal anytime soon. Instead they called for Republicans to reconsider their opposition to a 14-month clean debt-ceiling increase, which failed to clear a 60-vote hurdle in the Senate.
“The conversations were extremely cordial, but very preliminary of course, nothing conclusive,” Reid told reporters.
While Obama has let Senate Democrats again take the lead in the negotiations, he remains in close coordination with his allies in Congress, according to Senate Democratic aides.
Reid and other Senate Democratic leaders traveled to the White House to meet with Obama Saturday afternoon.
They reviewed the recent options raised by Republicans and recent days but decided to hold off on jumping on any of the offers until Republicans consolidate their position.
“Their conclusion was that while Democrats remain united, Republicans have yet to coalesce behind a clear negotiating position,” said a Senate Democratic leadership aide.
“The President and the leaders agreed that talks between Senate Democratic and Senate Republican leaders should continue in the coming days, but Democrats' position remains the same: Democrats are willing to negotiate on anything Republicans want to discuss as soon as we reopen the government and pay our bills," the aide added.
Unlike the fractured GOP conferences, the Senate Democratic caucus has not shown any cracks.
“We had a very good caucus today. Democrats were unified and were all united around the principles of open the government, pay our bills and let’s negotiate,” Schumer told reporters after Saturday’s meeting.
Every Senate Democrat voted earlier in the day to move to a clean 14-month extension of the debt ceiling. Reid changed his vote to no so he could bring the measure up again in the next few days.
“I think things are not moving now,” Sen. Bob CorkerBob CorkerKaine, Murphy push extension of Iran sanctions The Hill's 12:30 Report Rankings: Trump’s top 10 VP picks MORE (R-Tenn.) said Sunday on "Fox News Sunday." “The last 24 hours have not been good.”
Peter Schroeder and Erik Wasson contributed to this report, which was originally published on Saturday at 6:33 p.m. and was last updated on Sunday at 9:29 a.m.