Two senators with a history of hashing out bipartisan deals on Sunday complained that talks to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling before Thursday's deadline have stalled in the last 24 hours.
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said hopes for a final deal fizzled on Saturday when Senate Democrats pulled back at the request of the White House and are now demanding that sequester-imposed spending cuts be repealed as part of any compromise. Republicans have insisted that funding remain at sequestration levels.
“Well, there was movement a couple of days ago, but I think things aren't moving now,” Corker told “Fox News Sunday," noting that the White House may be trying to “bust budget caps.”
“I think we're at the status quo," he said. "We'll see our way through this but the last 24 hours have not been good.”'
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., supported a proposal being spearheaded by centrist Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine that was rejected by Senate Democratic leadership Saturday just as the Senate's top leaders were sitting down to direct talks over a potential compromise.
He said Democrats must agree to preserve the across-the-board spending cuts that were part of a 2011 budget deal because they are already written into the law. Republicans, he said, also must give up their demands for changes in Obamacare if the two sides are to prevent a government default by Thursday's deadline.
“Republicans started off in a place that was an overreach to try to change a law that is central to the president's agenda and now Democrats are in the position of being one tick too cute and are now overreaching,” Manchin said. “We need to get back to the middle of the road ... with something for both sides.”
Collins had been working with 11 other senators from both sides of the aisle on her proposal, which would extend government funding for six months and increase the debt ceiling through the end of January. It also called for a two-year delay of Obamacare's medical device tax and income verification requirements for those applying for government insurance subsidies.
But Senate Democratic leaders shot down the plan early Saturday, saying funding levels remained too low even though the Republican proposal also would give government agencies more flexibility in dealing with the sequester-imposed spending cuts.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., suggested Saturday that Senate Democrats were willing to take more drastic measures if they were unable to reach a compromise with Republicans. Manchin said Sunday that the option includes changing Senate rules so any spending deal could pass with a simple majority instead of the 60 votes typically needed. That change would allow Democrats to approve a deal without any Republican support.
“I hope we don't go to that,” Manchin said.
Corker said he and Manchin met over dinner Saturday with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., to discuss a possible resolution.
“Joe [Manchin] and I have to focus on getting something out of the Senate that is close enough that the House can pass,” he said. “It's not clear to me how this ends. ... With markets reacting this week, hopefully both sides will get back to the middle of the road.”
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said Sunday that House Republicans have not given up their demands for changes in Obamacare even though the Senate has focused instead on achieving spending cuts and entitlement reforms as part of any compromise.
There's reluctance on the part of Senate Republicans to continue pressing for Obamacare changes because the protracted fight over the health care law has actually driven up public support for it, from 30 percent two weeks ago to 38 percent now, despite its rocky roll out.
“There are two principles that drive House Republicans,” he said. “We can't keep spending money you don't have and Obamacare, the way it's being implemented, is not fair.”
Jordan also said Republicans would resist any effort to alter the sequester budget cuts as Democrats demand.
“We are not going to increase spending,” he said. “The sequester is one of the few things we have done where we've actually controlled spending in this town.”