US Republicans fail to agree on plan to end shutdown
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Republicans in the House failed to agree on a proposal Tuesday to end the government shutdown and raise the US debt ceiling, leaving the Republican plan stillborn as the Democrat-led Senate also raced to strike a deal to end the stalemate.
Republican leaders in the House of Representatives appeared Tuesday to have failed to win support from conservative members on a compromise plan to reopen the U.S. government and prevent a default on American debt that economists say could tip the global economy back into recession.
Republican officials initially indicated the House was ready to vote later in the day on a plan that was separate but largely similar to one apparently agreed upon by both Republicans and Democrats in the Senate on Monday. That had moved the country closer to solving a bitter fight between Republicans and President Barack Obama’s Democrats over government spending.
But House Speaker John Boehner backed away from outlining the expected Republican deal in a late-morning meeting with reporters, saying only that he and his caucus were working on a plan that insures “fairness to the American people under Obamacare.”
The United States government was partially shut down Oct. 1 after House Republicans refused to accept a temporary funding measure to provide the money to run the government at the start of the fiscal year. They initially were demanding that President Barack Obama’s health care law be defunded or put on hold. Republicans in the House also refused to move on needed approval for raising the amount of money the Treasury can borrow to pay the nation’s bills. The administration says the government will be out of money to pay debts by Thursday.
Both measures are normally done as routine, but a hard-right tea party faction of Republicans in the House has seen both deadlines as a weapon to get their way on killing or delaying Obama’s signature legislative achievement, designed to provide tens of millions of uninsured Americans with health coverage.
Even before Boehner pulled back, the White House quickly voice opposition to the Republican plan that had been leaked by officials in the House.
“The president has said repeatedly that members of Congress don’t get to demand ransom for fulfilling their basic responsibilities to pass a budget and pay the nation’s bills,” said Amy Brundage, a White House spokeswoman. “Unfortunately, the latest proposal from House Republicans does just that in a partisan attempt to appease a small group of tea party Republicans who forced the government shutdown in the first place.”
House officials had told The Associated Press earlier Tuesday that Boehner and other Republican leaders had outlined their own bill that also would – like the Senate plan – keep the government running into the New Year and raise the debt limit to Feb. 7.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said it was clear that Boehner had failed to win the backing of sufficient House Republicans to support the plan that had been floated earlier in the day.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, involved in negotiations with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, blasted the House plan as a blatant attack on bipartisanship.
“It can’t pass the Senate and it won’t pass the Senate,” Reid said.
With just two days left before the Treasury Department says it will run out of borrowing capacity, congressional aides predicted top Democrat Reid and minority boss McConnell could seal an agreement by midday, easing dual crises that have sapped confidence in the world’s dominant economy and badly shaken support for Republicans. Both House and Senate Republican leaders scheduled private meetings with their rank-and-file Tuesday.
The partial government shutdown has furloughed 350,000 federal workers. And with the global economic standing of the U.S. hanging in the balance, Republican poll numbers have plummeted and Americans growing weary of a shutdown entering its third week, Senate Republicans in particular were eager to end the partial government shutdown and avoid an even greater crisis if the government were to default later this month.
The U.S. stock market was mixed Tuesday morning, while stocks in Asia and Europe were tracking upward.
The bipartisan Senate plan is far from the assault on Obama’s signature health care reform law that conservative tea-party Republicans originally demanded as a condition for a short-term funding bill to keep the government fully operational. It also lacks the budget cuts demanded by Republicans in exchange for increasing the government’s $16.7 trillion borrowing limit.
Any legislation backed by both Reid and McConnell was expected to sail through the Senate, though any individual senator could delay it.
It had been a different story in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, where conservative backing remains a powerful obstacle.
One of the, Republican Rep. Joe Barton, had signaled that House conservative members were deeply skeptical. He said Monday the plan to end the crisis must have deep spending cuts to win his vote and that he thought Obama and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew had more flexibility than they had said publicly.
“No deal is better than a bad deal,” Barton said.
Asked whether the emerging package contained any victories for Republicans, Rep. James Lankford, a member of the House Republican leadership, said, “Not that I’ve seen so far, no.”
In addition to approving legislation to fund the government until late this year and avert a possible debt crisis later this week or month, the potential deals would have set up broader budget negotiations between the Republican-controlled House and Democratic-led Senate with one goal being to ease automatic spending cuts that began in March and could deepen in January, when about $20 billion in further cuts are set to slam the Defense Department.