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Senate, House GOP not unified on shutdown, debt: Lynn Sweet

Updated: November 15, 2013 6:27AM



WASHINGTON — There’s still no deal to end the partial federal government shutdown, heading into a third week, or raise the debt limit by the Thursday deadline — though Democratic and GOP senators are talking.

But as big a problem is that House and Senate Republicans have yet to develop a unified approach between themselves as the shutdown marks Day 14 on Monday.

“Here’s what I’m worried about. A deal coming out of the Senate that a majority of Republicans can’t vote for in the House,” Sen. Lindsey Graham told George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday.

He added, “So I’m not going to vote for any plan that I don’t think can get a majority of Republicans in the House, understanding that defunding Obamacare and delaying it for a year is not a realistic possibility now.”

The Senate on Saturday took the lead after talks between President Barack Obama and House Republicans stalled.

“The conversation that started yesterday between Senator [Mitch] McConnell, the Republican Senate leader, and Senator [Harry] Reid [the Democratic leader], I think has the promise of finding a solution,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told David Gregory Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“When you look at the history of the Senate in the last few years, despite their disagreements, the Senate has been a place where we’ve gotten things done,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) told Candy Crowley on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

If these twin inter-related crises are to end soon, Senate Republicans have to sign on to agreements to appeal to two disparate customers: Senate Democrats and at least half of the 232 House Republicans.

With the nation’s first default looming, there’s almost no time left for legislation to ping pong between the chambers. Anyway, that hasn’t worked so far.

The problem remains that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) will not call a bill that does not have the support of the majority of his GOP members.

But a Senate-authored bi-partisan plan crafted to appeal to 116 House members should at least force Boehner to call a vote. With 200 Democrats, it would be easy to get the 217 needed to pass.

On Saturday, outside the Senate chamber, I asked Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) about the need for House and Senate Republicans to have a unified approach.

“I think that could be a little difficult to happen,” he told me. “I mean, I’m just being realistic. I think it is going to be hard. There may be some pinging back and forth that occurs. . . . My perception is based on all the conversations I’ve been involved in, to reach that agreement on the front end may be difficult,” Corker said.

The number of items to be negotiated is growing longer, not shorter — even as derailing Obamacare is off the table for now.

The latest wrangling of the weekend involved spending levels. Democrats do not want the current lower budget numbers that are the result of the “sequestation” — the forced spending cuts — to be considered the starting points of discussons.

Even a most basic decision — the duration of temporary measures to extend the debt limit and re-open government is the subject of enormous negotiation.

Email: lsweet@suntimes.com

Twitter: @lynnsweet



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