Republicans and Dems seem further apart than ever
Washington • With barely a week until the next big deadline - when the federal government runs the risk of not being able to meet its debt obligations - Congress appears to be preparing for several more days of partisan posturing accompanied by no signs of negotiations to solve the ongoing fiscal crises.
Instead, House Republicans and Senate Democrats are continuing down separate legislative paths Wednesday, as each chamber considers bills on separate fiscal crises.
The GOP-controlled House will continue passing a series of small-ball spending plans for popular or important government programs, daring the Democratic-controlled Senate to reject funding for these critical areas of government.
After dueling news conferences Tuesday by President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, the two sides seemed further apart than ever. That meant that, by late Tuesday, no special caucus meetings were planned to consider different strategic moves.
Here's a breakdown of what's happening in each chamber:
The chamber will come into session about 10 a.m. Most committee hearings have been postponed because the shutdown has left little administrative staff in place to conduct the hearings. By early afternoon, the House will move into a full legislative session to consider its next set of mini-spending bills.
According to senior GOP aides, the next batch would include funding for border security, nuclear weapons security and benefits that go to survivors of U.S. service members who die on the battlefield. The issue flared up after reports that more than a dozen families of troops killed in action since the shutdown began Oct. 1 had not received the normal $100,000 in promised pay after such deaths.
The money, among other things, often helps family members pay to fly to Dover Air Force Base to greet the fallen on their return home.
Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., gave no indication Tuesday that the Senate would take up any of these piecemeal bills that Boehner is passing in the House. He continued to demand that Boehner instead open up the government by passing the Senate's funding legislation and then broader fiscal talks could begin.
In his chamber, rather than considering new funding bills to open the government, Reid is beginning to put together legislation that would allow the Treasury's greater borrowing authority to avoid breaching the so-called debt ceiling. While House Republicans have been pushing for a one-year delay in the federal health-care law in exchange for lifting the debt ceiling, Reid is pursuing a "clean" increase with no strings attached.
The Democratic leader is offering to suspend the debt ceiling until the end of 2014, which would probably lift the limit by an additional $1 trillion. That legislation was expected to be formally unveiled late Tuesday or early Wednesday, setting up a first key procedural vote Saturday.
Senate Republicans have a regular Wednesday luncheon that is led by the conservative wing of that caucus. Recently run by former senator Jim DeMint, R-S.C., the Wednesday "steering lunch" is now helmed by Sen. Patrick Toomey, R-Pa.