Hopes to avert a disastrous national default and end the federal government shutdown now rest with the Senate, where the two leaders already have an icy and deteriorating relationship.
It’s now up to Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to find some terms they can agree on in order to break the continued impasse that has closed parts of the government for almost two weeks now and has the nation flirting with a risk of default this week.
Reid has told media that he hopes the fact that the two are talking provides “some solace” to the American public and the world at large.
The clash was set up when House Republicans insisted on attaching moves to sabotage Obamacare to every measure to keep the government funded and Democrats rebuffed every single one.
Now, some Republicans are admitting their initial position of trying to defund or delay Obamacare was an “overreach.”
“I think we’re in a status quo,” Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said on “Fox News Sunday.” “I do think we will see our way through this, but the last 24 hours have not been good."
The Tennessee Republican also said Democrats are equally guilty. “I agree that Republicans started with the overreach, but now Democrats are one tick too cute,” Corker said. “They are now overreaching.”
He added that the gridlock is no longer about Obamacare, but about the nation’s spending levels.
“What we need to do is get this back to the middle of the road, act like adults,” Corker said. “Nothing is going to happen, I don’t think, if it’s about breaking those spending caps.”
But just what will satisfy Reid and President Barack Obama seems to be lost on some Democrats. Both Reid and Obama have stated their preference for a long-term debt ceiling solution and for the government to be reopened without any strings attached.
Obama has said he would accept a short-term debt ceiling but that he will only negotiate with Republicans after the government reopens. Ending the government shutdown was the sticking point between him and Republicans after House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, offered an extension of the government’s borrowing authority for six weeks. But with little progress from the recent White House meetings, their plan was rejected.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said on the same Fox News program that he hasn't any idea what Reid and Obama now want and suggested his Democratic colleagues would probably try to pass a debt limit increase with only 51 votes.
“I would assume that they might be referring to the so-called ‘nuclear option’ if you have to use that basically to keep this country from falling into default,” Manchin told host Chris Wallace. He was reacting to a statement by Deputy Majority Leader Dick Durbin, D-Ill., that Democrats have “several somethings” as backup options.
But just whether Reid and McConnell will be able to find a compromise is anyone’s best guess now, as Reid rejected a proposal from Sen. Susan Collins, a moderate Republican from Maine, on Saturday to extend government funding for six months and increase the debt ceiling until January. The funding cuts in the plan reportedly were too much for Democrats.
“At least we sparked a dialogue that didn’t exist before we put out a plan,” Collins told CNN’s “State of the Union” after expressing surprise at Reid’s reaction to her plan.