Feb. 12, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Fiscal Cliff Negotiations Appear to Be Inching Forward

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
McConnell was chided for bringing to the floor for a vote Obama’s proposal to give the president unprecedented authority to raise the debt ceiling and then subsequently objecting when the majority leader tried to pass it by a simple majority vote.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi suggested raising the rate on top earners to 39.6 percent could be negotiable, but the total revenue coming from the wealthy must still be achieved. “It’s about the money,” the California Democrat said, echoing Obama’s comments earlier this week.

Still, both sides continued the showmanship Thursday, with the debt ceiling again taking center stage. The debt limit is a side argument to the larger talks on extending Bush-era tax rates and averting automatic, across-the-board spending cuts. But it’s a concession the White House is demanding to prevent serial manufactured crises in which the GOP uses the threat of a government default to demand spending cuts.

Senate Democrats appeared to surprise Republicans Thursday by closing ranks behind Obama’s proposal to give the president unprecedented authority to raise the debt ceiling with only limited congressional power to block him.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., brought Obama’s proposal to the floor and said he was prepared to hold a vote. But he subsequently objected when Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., sought to pass it by a simple majority. A Senate Democratic aide said he was “very confident” that Democrats had the 51 votes needed to pass the bill, but McConnell quickly tried to set a 60-vote, filibuster-proof threshold for passage of the measure before an agreement to vote was solidified.

“I would hope that we can work together here and get a vote on it and give his members a chance to express themselves as to whether or not they think that’s a good way forward for our country, to give this president or any other president unlimited authority to borrow as much as he wants at any time he wants from the Chinese or anybody else,” McConnell said Thursday morning, before he blocked Reid’s counteroffer.

After, Democrats chided McConnell for the reversal. “This may be a moment in Senate history, when a senator made a proposal and when given an opportunity for a vote on that proposal filibustered his own proposal,” said Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill.

Senate Democrats expect to bring the measure up repeatedly until the Republicans allow a majority vote, the senior aide said.

Carney shot down the idea pitched by some senior Democrats that Obama should simply raise the debt limit on his own through the 14th Amendment, which says the debt of the United States shall not be questioned. “This administration does not believe that the 14th Amendment gives the president the power to ignore the debt ceiling. Period,” Carney said.

Ben Weyl and Meredith Shiner contributed to this report.

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