Senate leaders back at negotiating table

Senate leaders are resuming negotiations on a deal to open the government and raise the debt limit after a House Republican alternative stalled Tuesday evening.
 
Senate aides said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) would return to the negotiating table after they agreed earlier in the day to suspend talks to await House action.
 
“Sen. Reid and Sen. McConnell have re-engaged in negotiations and are optimistic that an agreement is within reach,” said Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Reid.
 

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Don Stewart, McConnell’s spokesman, said, “Given tonight’s events, the leaders have decided to work toward a solution that would reopen the government and prevent a default.”
 
“They are optimistic an agreement can be reached,” they said.

The administration has warned the nation risks default if Congress does not raise the debt limit before the Oct. 17 deadline.

Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Reid and McConnell have an agreement in principle.

“They have a basic agreement about what would be included,” Durbin said. “The staff is now working on — a lot of action going on right now on a lot of different avenues but all pointing in the right direction, at this moment.”

A senior GOP aide said no agreement would be announced Tuesday evening.

Durbin said he did not expect any legislative text before Wednesday.

Durbin believes the expected deal would garner broad support among Senate Republicans.

“With McConnell’s name on it, we feel it would” pass, he said.

But he declined to guess whether it could survive the House.

“After what’s gone on today, am I going to predict what’s going to happen in the House?” he said.

Senior Senate aides said the emerging agreement would fund the government until Jan. 15 and raise the debt limit until February. It would also establish a Senate-House budget committee to replace the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration, which would report its work to Congress by mid-December.

As of Tuesday, it did not include reforms to ObamaCare, such as a delay of the medical device tax, which Republicans want.

Reid is more open to language that would set up a process for verifying the income claims of people who apply for subsidies through the insurance exchanges.

Reid would like to reach a deal as soon as possible so that he can begin the arduous process of moving it on the Senate floor. 

Without House action, it could take several days for the Senate to pass an agreement unless leaders receive consent from all members of the chamber to waive procedural requirements.

Durbin said the Senate might soon receive a message from the House that could be used as a vehicle to move the Senate deal more quickly than legislation originating in the upper chamber.

“It’s better if we can receive a message from the House, but that’s up to the Speaker,” he said.

If Reid tries to move a regular House-passed bill related to appropriations, he might have to wade through days of procedural hurdles.

Some House Republican made a hasty exit from the Capitol Tuesday evening after it became clear they would not have enough votes to move an alternative fiscal proposal.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), emerging form a meeting in Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) office, told reporters: “There are no votes tonight. We’ll see you in the morning.”

Then he left the building.

— Emily Goodin contributed.