October 12, 2013

Susan Collins pitches plan to end shutdown, raise debt limit

The plan appears to gain her party’s support, but neither the president nor conservative House Republicans immediately endorse it.

By Kevin Miller kmiller@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Negotiations between President Obama and congressional Republicans intensified Friday as lawmakers rushed to find an elusive agreement that would reopen federal offices and avert a default on the national debt.

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Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, walks into the White House for a meeting with President Obama and other senators Friday. Collins presented one of several plans for re-opening the government and raising the nation’s debt limit.

The Associated Press

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Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, talks with reporters after arriving on Capitol Hill following a meeting between Republican senators and the president.

The Associated Press

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With progress still slow in the House, Senate Republicans went to the White House, where Maine Sen. Susan Collins presented a plan that would end the government shutdown and extend the debt limit through January, but would also delay a medical device tax included in the Affordable Care Act.

Collins’ plan was one of several discussed during the more than 90-minute meeting, but by Friday evening the framework of her proposal was emerging as the top Senate Republican plan. Senators said Obama listened politely to the proposals by Collins and others but did not specifically endorse any.

Collins’ plan would continue the automatic sequester cuts but allow more flexibility in how they can be applied.

Senior Republican senators urged House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio to join them in supporting the measure, according to The Washington Post.

By late Friday, Senate Republicans – led by Collins, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska – sent draft language to their Democratic counterparts, the Post reported.

“The president obviously wants to get this resolved and certainly isn’t dismissive of it,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said of the proposal put forward by Collins. McCain is one of a group of senators working with Collins on the plan. “But he has his positions, which are well known.”

McCain added, however, that the sides were still “a long way” from a final agreement.

Collins told reporters the president expressed interest in aspects of her plan but had not endorsed any proposals. She described Friday’s conversation as constructive. But, she said, “I’m concerned we still don’t have an agreement on a specific plan.”

White House spokesman Jay Carney also suggested that the conversation with Senate Republicans had been productive but that the president had not pledged support for any single plan. He also reiterated the president’s position that Republicans cannot “demand a ransom from the American people in return for not defaulting.”

“I would say that a number of lawmakers in the Senate as well as the House have expressed views that are constructive, in our estimation,” Carney said during his daily press briefing when asked about Collins’ plan. “Senator Collins is one of them. But I’m not going to evaluate from here a specific proposal beyond what I’ve said thus far.”

Friday’s negotiations came on the 11th day of a partial shutdown and less than one week before Oct. 17, which federal Treasury officials estimate is the final day they will have enough cash to pay all the government’s bills. Economists, business leaders and financial experts warn that defaulting on the national debt could have catastrophic consequences on the economy in the U.S. and around the globe.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., acknowledged that he went into the White House meeting with somewhat low expectations.

“But I left there feeling it was very useful and constructive,” Corker said. “And it lent to sort of an understanding where the various camps are and, I think, an understanding of where the sweet spot might be to solve this problem.”

Although one of several proposals floated by both sides, Collins’ plan appears to be gaining favor among her Republican colleagues in the Senate. Collins said she is fielding increasing calls from Democrats interested in learning more about the plan, but Democrats remained quiet on the proposal Friday.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, said she was withholding judgment until she learns more about the plan, which she said has not been distributed broadly.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, center, talks with, from left, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Sen.. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R- Alaska, and Sen. John McCain, R- Ariz., on Capitol Hill in Washington on Friday. Republicans are offering to pass legislation to avert a default and end the 11-day partial government shutdown as part of a framework that would include cuts in benefit programs, officials said Friday.

The Associated Press

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Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, walks in the rain back to her bus at the North Portico of the White House in Washington on Friday after she and Republican senators met with President Barack Obama regarding the government shutdown and debt ceiling.

The Associated Press


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