Meanwhile, leaders say they continue to keep open channels of communication as Congress presses on its deadline and Senators in both parties recognize the need to tweak whichever legislative vehicle comes before the chamber. One of the most significant differences between the two bills is that Boehner’s has a huge incentive — the threat of default — for lawmakers to act if the bipartisan committee it creates deadlocks on a deficit reduction package. There are no triggers if Reid’s similar joint committee fails to reach a deal, but Democrats and Republicans said Tuesday that real consequences could be added to attract Republicans.
“That might be one point of compromise,” Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said. Portman noted that the Senate’s bipartisan “gang of six” proposal included a trigger that would allow 10 Senators — five from each party — to get a Senate floor vote on a deficit reduction plan if committees failed to produce savings.
“There are various ways to do it,” he said, adding that both plans aren’t very different and the desire of both parties to avoid default should bring them together.
“At the end of the day, the alternatives are pretty unpleasant,” Portman said.
Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), a member of the gang of six, said he floated the idea of using that group’s triggers to both Reid and McConnell over the weekend, but neither has supported it yet.
“It’s in their lap,” he said. “If you have a 6-6 deadlock in this select committee, where are we going? Right now, the plan is, is just do nothing. ... I don’t think that’s good. Something’s got to happen.”
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) also said the triggers for the joint committee are key.
“It comes down to the enforcement of it, and if you’re deadlocked, what kind of triggers do you use,” he said.
Reid, however, called the 10-Senator trigger “a little weak.”
This article updates the print version to include details on a voting delay for Speaker John Boehner’s deficit bill to allow for changes to the measure.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.