Dems Push Back on Sequestration

by Robert Costa

As the Huffington Post’s Sam Stein reports, Senate Democratic leaders recently rejected a Republican plan to end the impasse, repeal the medical-device tax, and lock in the sequestration cuts for six months:

The party’s leadership rejected an offer from Senate Republicans on Saturday morning mainly because the proposal locked in those budget cuts for too long.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) called it the “single biggest sticking point” in negotiations, while his counterpart in leadership, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) deemed it the central dispute.

“The parties have different views. We passed a budget of $1.058 trillion and they passed one — the Ryan budget — [at] $988 [billion],” Schumer said. “So that is a serious issue.”

The rejection of this latest GOP offer, authored by Senator Susan Collins, has made Senate Republicans angry, and many of them are complaining today that Democrats are “moving the goal posts” by trying to tinker with sequestration cuts. “It’s caused the whole process to nearly collapse,” says a Senate Republican. “We can’t move on those levels and anything that touches those levels won’t pass the House.” A House GOP leadership staffer, via e-mail, agrees:

1) At the very last minute, Sen. Harry Reid moved the goal-posts by insisting we violate the spending levels set by the Budget Control Act — a law he voted for and helped write.
2) He has led the White House into a box canyon with our economy on the line, since time is running short for any measure to start in the Senate before the debt limit deadline.

A top Senate Democratic aide, though, say the GOP’s complaints are “disingenuous,” and says Republicans are exaggerating Democrats’ demands.

Republicans who say talks are breaking down because of BCA tinkering are being disingenuous. We are not backing away from the short-term CR at $988 billion we already passed. The plan all along was to pass a short-term CR, get past the debt ceiling, and then debate spending levels for 2014. Both parties knew that, so for Republicans to imply that our refusal to preemptively accept $988/967 billion for all of 2014 is a change in position is just flat-out false, and they know it.

This brewing debate over BCA levels has stalled talks among Senate leaders, who were making slow progress on Saturday. And until this specific issue is resolved, a deal with broad bipartisan support is unlikely to emerge.