Reid demurred when asked whether he would demand revenue and a sequester fix in any funding bill to keep the government open.
Reid also said he would again push for compromise, even as Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., continued to be united against new revenue.
“What I would hope is that the Republicans there — both of them — would agree with the Republicans around the country that we should have a balanced approach to get rid of this,” he said, suggesting that an omnibus would be a way out.
To be sure, some Democrats, such as Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, are eager for a showdown. “The American people are on our side. ... Why should we cave?” he asked.
Harkin doesn’t think it makes sense for Democrats to vote for any CR that keeps the sequester intact.
Other Democrats and especially Republican hawks such as Arizona Sen. John McCain still hold out some hope for a deal in the coming weeks that would restore some of the sequester’s cuts in the CR.
McCain voted against his party’s sequester alternative, saying it cut too deeply into defense. He said the GOP should be willing to make concessions in negotiations with Obama and that he hopes the coming cuts act as a “forcing mechanism” to bring the parties together.
McCain also warned his party that if a shutdown does come, the GOP likely would take the blame. The lesson of history is that the party that doesn’t have the White House loses shutdown fights, he said.
And to any of his younger colleagues who don’t remember the last shutdown fight with President Bill Clinton in the mid-1990s, he said, “I think they should go back and look at some old clips.”
In the meantime, Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., said she intends to move an omnibus with all 12 unfinished fiscal 2013 spending bills. That would be a far broader measure than the House’s planned package, expected to be unveiled Monday, which pairs a continuing resolution with Defense and Military Construction-VA bills.
“I will have an omnibus,” she said. “We can’t go crisis to crisis and we can’t put out bills like Noah’s ark, two by two.”
Like her House counterpart, Mikulski will write her measure in keeping with the $1.043 trillion cap set by the fiscal-cliff law. But unless Democrats succeed in persuading Republicans to include language averting the sequester, automatic cuts would then be applied to that number.
Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, threw cold water on the idea of an omnibus, however, after a meeting Thursday afternoon with Reid, McConnell and Mikulski.
“I don’t think an omnibus would go with our caucus,” Shelby said, adding that discussions were ongoing with Mikulski and House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky.
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said appropriators should finish an omnibus assuming that the sequester stays in effect — saying that would ensure the cuts are made in a smarter way.
And Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., warned that Republicans would not accept a Democratic-written CR if it includes new tax revenue to avert the sequester.