Democratic and Republican lawmakers retreated to their respective corners tonight after an early evening meeting among top leaders failed to produce a deal to avoid a government shutdown and extend a popular payroll tax cut.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) met for more than 40 minutes in McConnell’s Capitol office today in an attempt to end a days-long standoff between the two parties that threatens to force a government shutdown and derail an end-of-the-year package of tax cuts and extensions.
But any hopes for success in the meeting, which appears to have been the first face-to-face sitdown of the three leaders since the fight began earlier this week, were quickly dashed when a clearly angry and tight-lipped Reid emerged from McConnell’s office.
He quickly made for the relative shelter of the Senate floor and waved off repeated questions from reporters about the meeting.
Following that meeting, Boehner briefly huddled with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) and Chief Deputy Majority Whip Peter Roskam (R-Ill.). Although participants declined to comment specifically on what they discussed, following the meeting Cantor told reporters that Republicans will “act” to avoid a shutdown Friday.
“I think our Members are united behind the fact that we’re going to do our work. And I think the onus falls on the Majority Leader of the Senate to actually do his work. Our Members are united around the fact that the House has already acted to stave off a tax increase for all working people. We intend to act to make sure that we don’t allow for there to be a shutdown of the government,” Cantor said.
“Harry Reid hasn’t done anything,” he added. “So again I think the onus is on him, and we ought to be able to work together to bring this thing to a proper conclusion.”
According to several GOP aides, that action will likely be a move to bring the conference report for the omnibus spending bill to the floor Friday afternoon.
But in order to do that, appropriators would need to file the bill this evening before midnight to adhere to the Conference’s three-day posting rule.
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.