Today’s action on solving the budget impasse/government shutdown involved negotiations between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Information initially leaked on the talks was that:
*Senator Reid wants a 6-month increase in the country’s debt ceiling (borrowing limit) and a 2-month continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government.
*Senator McConnell wants a 3-month increase in the debt ceiling and 6-months of government funding.
Reid insists on a short-term CR so Democrats can attempt to undo $20 billion in new sequester cuts that take effect January 15. That’s why Reid would not even talk about a proposal from Republican Senator Susan Collins, which included raising the debt ceiling until January 31, a 6-month CR and repeal of the Obamacare tax on medical devices (prosthetics, eyeglasses/contacts, diabetes testing supplies, etc.)
Congressional sources are telling the news media that negotiations are now focused on McConnell’s debt ceiling increase paired with Reid’s funding proposal for the government. (These sources are giving dates of February 7 for the debt ceiling and January 15 for the continuing resolution.) That seems like a good compromise, with each party getting part of what they want. Yet Reid said “we are not there yet”. The problem with these closed-door negotiations is the host of small things each party tries to include. Those are the provisions that the news media rarely covers, and the ones about which average citizens should be wary.
Crafting a full year (actually 9 months by then) federal budget, including increased revenue and/or spending cuts to stop the sequester cuts, seems like a lot of work for Congress to accomplish in three months. Congress does not seem to understand the concept of a full days’ work. Reid and McConnell could have negotiated all the day, since this is supposed to be such a horrible crisis, but only had one meeting in the morning and another in the afternoon. Congress will also take a month-long Christmas vacation. So it is hard to see them getting all the proposed work done in such a short time frame, but one can hope. However much time they are given, I expect they will not do anything of substance until two weeks before any new deadlines.