House Republicans on Tuesday assembled for talks with the Senate over the stalled federal spending measure, but no Democrats showed up to negotiate.
That's because Senate Democrats rejected the proposal to set up a conference committee to negotiate a deal on a government funding bill, ensuring that the government shutdown that started after midnight will continue at least for the day.
"All of us here sitting at a table, waiting for the Senate Democrats to join us, so we can begin to resolve our differences," Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said to a throng of reporters and snapping camera shutters.
The meeting was mainly a photo-op as the GOP works to shift the blame over the shutdown to the Democrats, who have rejected four government spending measures sent their way by the Republican-controlled House. The Senate rejected the conference committee proposal earlier Tuesday on a 54-46 party-line vote.
Democrats blame the Republicans for sending over measures that defund, delay or limit the new health care law. They want a "clean," short-term spending bill with no strings attached.
House Republicans will meet Tuesday afternoon to plot their next move, but one of the lawmakers tapped to negotiate with the Senate, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., suggested Tuesday that the government spending fight might get resolved during the upcoming negotiations to raise the nation's $16.7 trillion borrowing limit.
"Most budget agreements in the past have always involved debt limit increases," Ryan told reporters Tuesday. "That's what we think will be the forcing action to bring the two parties together."
Senate Democrats, meanwhile, only a hint of a willingness to negotiate on the health care law.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said on CNN that his party may be willing to support the elimination of the health care law's 2.3-percent medical device tax, as Republicans proposed. The tax is expected to fund the health care law by providing nearly $30 billion over the next decade, but Republicans believe it will kill jobs and raise patients' costs.
Many Democrats in both the House and Senate also oppose the tax.
"As long as we replace the revenue so that we don't put a hole in our deficit and respond to this in a responsible fashion," Durbin said. "That's one thing the Republicans want to talk about. Let's sit down and put that on the table."