October 16, 2013

House Republicans cancel vote on debt deal

The pressure is now on Senate leaders to end the government shutdown and avoid default.

By Kevin Miller kmiller@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, with House GOP leaders, speaks with reporters following a Republican strategy session, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013. House Republican leaders canceled votes Tuesday night on a proposal to reopen federal agencies and lift the debt ceiling, shifting the onus back onto the Senate to finalize a deal to avoid a default that could undermine the U.S. economy and the country’s longterm credit.

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

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This Oct. 15, 2013, photo, shows a view of the U.S. Capitol building at dusk in Washington. Even if Congress reaches a last-minute or deadline-busting deal to avert a federal default and fully reopen the government, elected officials are likely to return to their grinding brand of brinkmanship, perhaps repeatedly. House-Senate talks are barely touching the underlying causes of debt-and-spending stalemates that pushed the country close to economic crises in 2011, last December and again this month.

AP Photo/ Evan Vucci

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While delayed payments would have severe impacts nationwide, the financial pain could be disproportionately acute in Maine.

Nearly one-quarter of Maine’s 1.3 million residents received Social Security benefits last year, the second-highest percentage in the country. Maine was also tied with West Virginia as having the highest percentage of residents on Medicare, ranked second for residents on Medicaid and has the fourth-highest population of veterans per capita.

Tuesday started with high hopes of a deal in the Senate. But the Republican-controlled House has been the wild card in the budget and debt ceiling debate. And by late afternoon, it was clear that the biggest obstacle to a deal lay within the House Republican caucus.

House Republican leaders proposed several legislative packages only to withdraw, revise and then withdraw them again in response to opposition from conservative members. The White House also vowed a veto of a mid-afternoon proposal.

Before House Speaker John Boehner canceled the planned votes, Republican Rep. Steve Womack of Arkansas resorted to his military experience to explain the behind-the-scenes strategizing at work as his caucus tried to force changes to Obamacare in the face of Senate Democratic opposition.

“I can tell you we are always concerned about the tactical battle today, but we are equally concerned about the next battle,” said Womack, a member of the House Appropriations Committee. “I would expect that what we send over there, ... it is quite possible that something gets stripped out or something gets tacked on. And then we’re back over here.”

The House Republican bill that was pulled from consideration Tuesday would have extended the debt ceiling through Feb. 7 but funded government only until Dec. 15, thereby forcing additional negotiations with Democrats before Obamacare programs begin on Jan. 1.

Additionally, the House Republican proposal would have prohibited the federal government from making health care contributions – similar to employer contributions in the private sector – for insurance for members of Congress, the president, the vice president and White House staff.

Though the House failed to muster sufficient support for a conservatives-only bill in the GOP-majority chamber on Tuesday, enough Republicans there seem likely to join House Democrats to approve a bipartisan version if it can be approved by the Senate and sent to them, The Associated Press reported.

While both parties are being hurt politically by the impasse, polls indicated that Republicans are bearing the brunt of public unhappiness as survey after survey shows their approval ratings plunging.

Earlier Tuesday, King was so frustrated about the proposals coming from House Republicans that he was struggling for words – a rare thing, he acknowledged. King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, was among the dozen-plus senators involved in Collins’ group.

“This is the height of irresponsibility. I have never seen this,” said King, a former Maine governor serving his first year in the Senate. “I have dealt with legislatures off and on for 35 years and I have never seen anything like this. And the stakes are so high.”

Members of the bipartisan group of lawmakers that have been working with Collins and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., met again late in the afternoon as House Republicans struggled to coalesce around a plan.

“We continue those discussions so that our group, if leadership does not come together, ... can come together around something to get this resolved,” Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., said earlier Tuesday.

Kevin Miller can be contacted at (207) 317-6256 or at:

kmiller@pressherald.com

Twitter: KevinMillerDC

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Additional Photos

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House members and congressional staff, including Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., left, head of the Republican Conference, left, moving past Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., third from left, the top Democrat on the House Rules Committee, leave the Capitol at the end of the night after a planned vote in the House of Representatives collapsed, Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013, at the Capitol in Washington. Time growing desperately short, House Republicans pushed for passage of legislation late Tuesday to prevent a threatened Treasury default, end a 15-day partial government shutdown and extricate divided government from its latest brush with a full political meltdown.

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

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Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., glances to media stands ready to board the elevator that serves the office of House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013, in Washington. The partial government shutdown is in its third week and less than two days before the Treasury Department says it will be unable to borrow and will rely on a cash cushion to pay the country’s bills.

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

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Rep. Tom Lathem, R-Iowa, walks past reporters on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013, in Washington. The partial government shutdown is in its third week and less than two days before the Treasury Department says it will be unable to borrow and will rely on a cash cushion to pay the country’s bills.

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster



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