Friday, December 13, 2013
(Continued from page 1)
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is followed by reporters as she leaves a meeting of Senate Republicans regarding the government shutdown and debt ceiling on Capitol Hill in Washington on Saturday.
A moderate Republican known for working across the aisle, Collins was lead author of a proposal that had picked up some notable supporters in Republican ranks and reportedly a number of Democrats as well.
The group broadened the plan in recent days to include: funding the federal government for another six months; extending the debt limit to Jan. 31, 2014; delaying a 2.3 percent medical device tax included in the Affordable Care Act; requiring income verification for people who seek federal subsidies for health insurance through the health care act; giving federal agencies flexibility in implementing the across-the-board budget cuts known as “sequestration;” and requiring budget negotiations between the chambers.
But the Collins-backed plan would not have eliminated or replaced the sequestration budget cuts, which is a top priority for Democrats. Democrats also want a longer extension of the debt ceiling.
Asked if sequestration – $1.2 trillion in across-the-board cuts levied over 10 years – was central to the Democrats’ concerns, Schumer said “yes.”
“I am not a supporter of the Collins plan at this time because it brings in the sequester,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat and influential voice in the Senate.
While Collins’ plan included two general provisions that Democrats support – reopening federal offices shuttered for 12 days and extending the debt ceiling – Reid said “there is little agreement with us” on the other aspects.
Collins said the plan she has put forward with Republican Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska continues to draw interest, despite what she called Reid’s “unfortunate dismissal” of the proposal.
“For example, six Senate Republicans and six Senate Democrats met twice today to discuss how we could move forward with the plan or some version of it,” Collins said in a statement. “These meetings were constructive and give me hope that a bipartisan solution to reopen government and prevent default is within our reach.”
It was clear Saturday that the proposal faced hurdles within House Republican ranks as well, however.
“I don’t like it,” said Rep. Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican and chairman of the House Budget Committee, according to Reuters. Ryan said there were too many problems to list with the proposal.
But Senate Democrats were also angered by Senate Republicans’ decision to block consideration of a Democratic bill to lift the debt ceiling by $1 trillion and extend the debt limit through the end of 2014. Collins voted with other Republicans to block consideration, while Maine Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, voted to proceed with the bill.
“It’s troubling to me that not a single Republican would step up to allow us to start the debate on whether or not we avoid the debt ceiling default in just four days,” said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the Senate majority whip.
Republicans, however, have made clear that they would not vote for a $1 trillion debt ceiling increase without spending reductions or changes to benefits programs that are driving up the cost of government.
“I don’t see the House or the Senate Republicans agreeing to a year debt ceiling (extension) at all, quite frankly,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Friday. “I think we should have an increase in the debt ceiling long enough to give us a chance to address our underlying debt problems.”
Democratic leaders returned to the White House on Saturday afternoon for a meeting with President Obama. With pressure now on Reid and McConnell, the Democrat said he hoped the fact that the two leaders were meeting would offer some “solace” to the American people. But he also acknowledged the challenges facing the two leaders within their own caucuses.
“He’s got problems, I’ve got problems,” Reid said. “That’s how arrangements are made.”
Kevin Miller can be reached at (207) 317-6256 or at :