After a week of government shutdown in Washington, there is perhaps a ray of hope on the horizon as lawmakers start to introduce bills in Congress that could end the impasse nine days before the government defaults, and President Obama slightly altered his rhetoric.
But most observers still are not hopeful that any new bills would satisfy both sides enough to get the votes for passage in the Senate and the House.
Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio reportedly is seeking support for a plan to cut federal spending and reform the U.S. tax code as part of a broader deal to reopen government agencies and raise the government’s debt ceiling. In addition, Senate Democrats are looking to introduce a bill to raise the debt limit this week to give them enough time to pass it in the Senate and send it on to the House, where it faces a much tougher time.
This needs to be done before Oct. 17, when Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has said the government will run out of borrowing authority.
It’s not clear whether Democrats have the 60 votes they would need to push a debt-ceiling bill, with no strings attached, through the Senate, since it will surely face vigorous opposition from the likes of Senate Republicans such as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who many consider the leader of this whole government debacle.
Meanwhile the president and other Democrats have kept up their pressure on House Speaker John Boehner to schedule a vote on a separate “clean” bill to to fund the government and end the shutdown.
“If Republicans and Speaker Boehner is saying there are not enough votes, then they should prove it,” said Obama.
In a slight change in rhetoric, Obama’s press secretary Jay Carney told reporters the president would be willing to accept a short-term debt ceiling increase in order to get past the potential crisis date of Oct. 17.
Carney said that while the White House would prefer raising the ceiling enough to last a year, “we have never stated and we’re not saying today that the debt ceiling ought to be or can be any particular length of time.”
Obama also said he is open to negotiations over his health care law — but only after Congress approves measures to end the weeklong government shutdown and raise the U.S. debt ceiling.
“As soon as that happens I am eager and ready to negotiate with Republicans on a whole range of issues: how do we create more jobs, how do we build the economy, how do we boost manufacturing,” said Obama, in a visit to the Federal Emergency Management Agency yesterday to bring more attention to the loss of government services because of the shutdown.
“I’m happy to talk about health care. I’m happy to talk about energy policy, how do we deal with our long-term fiscal situation,” he said.
White House aides explained that any “negotiations” over the health care law would be for the purpose of improving it, not gutting it, as Republicans want.