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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) MoranSenate Republicans demand Google hand over memo advising it to hide data vulnerability Overnight Defense — Presented by The Embassy of the United Arab Emirates — Missing journalist strains US-Saudi ties | Senators push Trump to open investigation | Trump speaks with Saudi officials | New questions over support for Saudi coalition in Yemen Senators demand answers on Trump administration backing of Saudi coalition in Yemen 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 AyotteElection Countdown: O'Rourke brings in massive M haul | Deal on judges lets senators return to the trail | Hurricane puts Florida candidates in the spotlight | Adelson spending big to save GOP in midterms GOP mulls having outside counsel question Kavanaugh, Ford Pallbearers, speakers announced for McCain's DC memorial service and Capitol ceremony 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 McCainMurkowski not worried about a Palin challenge Kavanaugh fight a GOP wake up call, but more is needed MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace: I told Jeb Bush 'he should have punched' Trump 'in the face' 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 CollinsThe Kavanaugh debate was destructive tribalism on steroids: Here’s how we can stop it from happening again Conservative group launches ad campaign thanking Collins after Kavanaugh vote Democrats must end mob rule 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 PortmanElection Countdown: O'Rourke brings in massive M haul | Deal on judges lets senators return to the trail | Hurricane puts Florida candidates in the spotlight | Adelson spending big to save GOP in midterms How Kavanaugh got the votes  Collins to support Kavanaugh, securing enough votes for confirmation 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 CorkerTrump defends 0B US arms sale to Saudi Arabia Cornyn: 'All the money in the world' won't help O'Rourke win Texas Saudi Arabia, Turkey to form joint investigation into Khashoggi disappearance 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 CruzNoisy democracy, or rude people behaving like children? Democrats hold fading odds of winning Senate this November Donald Trump Jr. emerges as GOP fundraising force 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 BarrassoWhy grizzly bear hunting season isn’t happening Trump poised to sign bipartisan water infrastructure bill Dems to force health care vote weeks before Nov. midterms 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 CornynTrump defends 0B US arms sale to Saudi Arabia Florida politics play into disaster relief debate O’Rourke faces pivotal point in Texas battle with Cruz 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 BoehnerThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Citi — House postpones Rosenstein meeting | Trump hits Dems over Medicare for all | Hurricane Michael nears landfall Kavanaugh becomes new flashpoint in midterms defined by anger Juan Williams: The GOP can't govern 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.