Federal Times Blogs
Good morning! It’s hard to believe that just two days have passed since Friday, when hopes were rising of a compromise that would bring federal employees back to work and raise the nation’s borrowing limit in time to avoid a crippling default.
Now, talks have broken down between the Obama administration and House Republicans, while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has rejected a proposal by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, that included a six-month continuing resolution.
“There are two good things in it,” Reid told reporters yesterday. “Number one, it opens the government, number two, it extends the debt ceiling. Other than that there’s little agreement with us.”
Reid didn’t elaborate, but Collins’ plan would repealed a medical device tax that helps pay for the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”) and keep the sequester in place, although agencies would have more flexibility to deal with reduced spending, according to a release on her web site.
At present, any hope for an agreement hinges on the outcome of talks between Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., two men not known for warm relations. Just considering the procedural timetable needed to push a bill through the House and Senate, it’s hard to imagine a deal emerging in time to reopen the government this week.
How curdled is the mood on Capitol Hill? Politico has this bulletin from Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., explaining why he might back an amendment by Sen. David Vitter, R-La., that would make members of Congress and their staffs pay full freight for their health insurance by cutting off the subsidy that the government typically chips in for federal employees. Critics fear that this step would lead many congressional staffers–unable or unwilling to bear thousands of dollars in extra expense–to look elsewhere for employment. No matter, Graham indicated.
“I am going to look at offering the Vitter language on anything that comes out of the Senate,” Graham said. “If we’re going to screw up the whole country, we might as well throw ourselves in the mix.”
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