Senate Leaders in Budget Talks

by Andrew Stiles

Senate leaders Harry Reid (D., Nev.) and Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) have entered talks aimed at finding a solution to the ongoing budget stalemate. The news comes as Senate Democrats rejected on Saturday a proposal drafted by Senator Susan Collins (R., Maine), with input from Senator Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) and others that some had hoped would provide a framework for a final deal. 

“There is really nothing in the Collins deal that appeals to our caucus, so it is not going to do the trick,” a senior Democratic aide said. 

The leaders’ talks begin in “earnest” on Friday, Senator Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) told reporters at the Capitol. “The real conversation that matters now is taking place between McConnell and Reid.”

As Jonathan reported earlier, some House Republicans are angry at their Senate colleagues for trying to “jam” them in negotiations. 

However, Senate Republicans are doubtful the House will be able to come up with a plan that can pass. “The House seems to be having a hard time. The president’s not helping much,” said Senator Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.). ”Senator Reid and Senator McConnell are the adults in the room and hopefully they’ll be able to make a recommendation.”

Even if House Republicans can pass a plan of their own, Reid is likely to reject it, and time is running short before the October 17 deadline by which Treasury Secretary Jack Lew says the debt limit must be raised. “We need to find a resolution to this,” says a GOP Senate aide familiar with the discussions. “Reid is finally talking, and that’s a good sign.”

The aide says Senate Republicans remain focused on maintaining the sequestration-level spending cuts, and therefore are likely to push for a longer-term continuing resolution. The talks are expected to continue over the weekend. “None of us know what the outcome is going to be,” Corker said.

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