In 11th day of shutdown, Congress rushes to end fiscal deadlock

government shutdown, Congress, debt
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), left, and Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) attend a news conference with Republican House members in Washington on Oct. 10. Credit: Reuters

President Barack Obama will press his case for a quick reopening of the entire federal government coupled with an emergency increase of U.S. borrowing authority when he meets with Senate Republicans on Friday.

With a partial government shutdown in its 11th day and less than a week to go before the Treasury Department runs out of money to pay the government’s bills, the Democratic president has been urging congressional Republicans to end a fiscal impasse that has overtaken Washington and rippled through the country.

Vice President Joe Biden will join Obama in pressing for fast action, which could come by week’s end if a series of new efforts by Republicans in the House of Representatives and Senate bear fruit.

Late on Thursday, House of Representatives Republicans were looking at possible changes to a vague plan they floated that would give Obama a short-term debt limit increase — possibly lasting about six weeks — and reopen the government.

But many details had to be worked out, including what Republicans would get in return. House Speaker John Boehner said he and his fellow Republicans want solid commitments from Obama and his congressional Democrats on some longer-term deficit-reduction steps.

The Oct. 17 deadline for raising the U.S. debt ceiling or risking an historic default was daunting because any deal that is struck by leaders could face a revolt from conservatives in both the House and Senate.

That is particularly problematic in the Senate, where procedural delays can slow legislation for up to a week — about the time remaining before borrowing authority runs out, according to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew.

But public opinion polls showing Republicans were being blamed for forcing a government shutdown at the Oct. 1 start of the new fiscal year fueled a desire by many in the party to cut their losses.

Late on Thursday some senior House Republicans were optimistic. Representative Pete Sessions, who chairs the House Rules Committee that is a gatekeeper for all legislation headed for debate in the full chamber, said a deal could be struck as early as Friday.

If he is correct, that could queue up votes in the full House by this weekend.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans were discussing a series of different ideas, including a fast reopening of the government coupled with a debt limit increase and the repeal of an unpopular medical device tax that would raise revenues to help pay for Obamacare healthcare subsidies. Under that plan, the revenues would instead be raised through some pension reforms.


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