Throughout the weekend, the president and his emissaries continued to say that he will not sign into law any legislation that does not extend the debt limit through the 2012 elections, and Republicans insisted that time had run out for that kind of deal to be done. With a little more than a week left, it appeared that raising the debt limit in stages over the next 17 months was emerging as a serious proposal on both sides of the Capitol.
“I would prefer to have a bipartisan approach to solve this problem. If that is not possible, I and my Republican colleagues in the House are prepared to move on our own,” Boehner said on “Fox News Sunday.” “There will be a two-stage process; it’s just not physically possible to do all of this in one step.”
Boehner’s open endorsement of a two-step process is not new. According to Democratic sources, Reid came to a hastily scheduled Saturday evening meeting with Boehner and other leaders armed with a “range of proposals that encompassed the different ways of doing the two tranches,” a senior Senate Democratic aide said Sunday.
One of the main sticking points was what could be done legislatively to trigger a second phase of deficit reduction. The aide said Reid proposed several options, including using a joint budget “super committee” envisioned by Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) during discussions on McConnell’s now-obsolete Plan B proposal. That special panel would be able to force votes on their proposal on the floors of both chambers. A mechanism to instruct committees to take up some form of the “gang of six” deficit reduction framework was also discussed.
In an openly frustrated statement issued after Saturday’s meeting in the Capitol, Reid called out Boehner and McConnell.
“Their unwillingness to compromise is pushing us to the brink of a default on the full faith and credit of the United States,” Reid said. “We have run out of time for politics. Now is the time for cooperation.”
Behind the scenes, though, Reid has been working constantly with his Senate counterpart. The two even met at 3 p.m. Friday in McConnell’s office after receiving notification that Boehner would be walking away from the table again.
In addition, Obama met with Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Sunday evening at the White House to discuss the situation.
Because any one Senator can delay action for days with an attempted filibuster, the time constraints faced by the Senate made Sunday night and this morning crucial for the chamber to settle on a procedural game plan.
“Under the best of circumstances, a controversial bill will take you a week to go through the Senate. And so we need to have an understanding today and move forward,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Sunday.
Asked whether McConnell had reached out to more conservative Senators like Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) or Mike Lee (R-Utah) in an attempt to head off any potential filibusters, a Senate Republican leadership aide would only say that the leader has had several meetings with Members.
Rep. Bill Cassidy has his blood drawn by Alesha Barbour during a free hepatitis screening in the Rayburn House Office Building hosted by the Congressional Viral Hepatitis Caucus to recognize "National Viral Hepatitis Testing Day."
Roll Call has launched a new feature, Hill Navigator, to advise congressional staffers and would-be staffers on how to manage workplace issues on Capitol Hill. Please send us your questions anything from office etiquette, to handling awkward moments, to what happens when the work life gets too personal. Submissions will be treated anonymously.