US Senate leaders poised to reach agreement
Hopes deal will bring a halt to fiscal standoff before US borrowing authority runs out
Senate minority Leader Mitch McConnell leaves the Senate floor in Washington. Democratic and Republican leaders in the Senate were close late last night to an agreement that would increase the nation’s borrowing authority and provide enough money to operate the government until the end of the year. Photograph: Gabriella Demczuk/The New York Times
US Senate leaders are poised to reach an agreement as early as today to bring a halt to the fiscal standoff, and now must race the clock to sell the plan to lawmakers before US borrowing authority runs out this week.
The emerging deal would stave off a potential default, end the 15-day-old government shutdown and change the immediate deadlines in favour of three new ones over the next four months.
It’s far from complete as the senate may delay passing the plan and House Republicans may seek to block or change it. Lawmakers would be required to hold budget talks by December 13th, fund the government through January 15th, 2014, and extend the nation’s borrowing authority until February 7th, 2014, according to a source.
“We’ve made tremendous progress,” Senate majority leader Harry Reid said yesterday on the Senate floor with his Republican counterpart, Mitch McConnell. “We are not there yet.”
An agreement would forestall the immediate crisis. It would end the shutdown that has closed many federal services and prevent a possible US default that the treasury department said may be catastrophic. US lawmakers, who have governed from fiscal crisis to fiscal crisis for more than two years, may be setting up more crises in the near future.
The agreement would delay the next major deadline - the January 15th lapse in government funding - until after the holiday shopping season.
There are two potential obstacles to an agreement. First, a single senator would be able able to use procedural tactics to push a final vote past the October 17th lapse in borrowing authority.
Also, House Republicans, who have demanded major changes to president Barack Obama’s signature health-care law, may resist any proposal that contains few of their priorities. “Sounds like everything the president asked for,” Representative Blake Farenthold, a Texas Republican aligned with Tea Party movement, said yesterday when asked about the Senate framework.
Mr Obama has insisted that Congress raise the $16.7 trillion US debt limit without add-ons and that stopgap spending bills be free of policy conditions.
A Senate agreement would again put pressure on House speaker John Boehner, who has a 232-200 Republican majority. He may have to decide whether to side with hardliners insistent on changes to Obamacare or rely on Democratic votes to pass a bipartisan Senate plan through the House.
House Republicans also may consider making changes and sending the plan back to the Senate. Reid and McConnell may release the plan’s details as early as today. Any one senator could push a final vote until at least October 18th, after the debt ceiling is breached though before the US runs out of cash and begins missing payments between October 22nd and October 31st.