House Republicans, encouraged by the start of debt negotiations with the White House, said Friday they are also rushing to reopen the government as soon as possible with a “continuing resolution,” or “CR.”
“The goal here is to try to get something passed on the CR that would allow us to reopen the government,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, Kentucky Republican. “That’s what my aim is, that’s what the leadership’s aim is, and I assume the president’s.”
At the White House, press secretary Jay Carney said Mr. Obama believes the negotiations have been “constructive,” even though he still had concerns about the House Republicans‘ proposal first floated Thursday.
“The president appreciates the constructive nature of the conversation and the proposal the House Republicans put forward,” Mr. Carney said.
He reiterated that Mr. Obama would sign a six-week extension of the debt ceiling, as proposed by the House GOP, saying “the right thing to do is to remove that gun from the table.”
But the two sides still haven’t agreed on terms for reopening the government, which was shutdown for the 11th day on Friday.
Long-term budget talks about everything from tax breaks to entitlement reform to Obamacare could take weeks, and Rep. Tom Cole, Oklahoma Republican, said the GOP wants to get federal employees back on the job while negotiators are ironing out the details.
“I think once they start talking, that’s clearly the top item of business and it doesn’t make a lot of sense to keep people out of work that you’re going to pay in the end anyways. So I think pretty quickly in exchange for negotiation, [reopening government] would probably be dealt with,” Mr. Cole said.
While neither congressman had a firm timeline, Mr. Cole said he saw no reason why the debt ceiling couldn’t be raised by this weekend or early next week. The government could also be reopened by the middle to end of next week.
“To me, sooner is better,” he said.
The Associated Press reported that Republicans are floating a broad deal that would end the shutdown, enact a short-term debt-limit holiday and would also begin to relax the budget sequesters.
The news service said the GOP is floating a plan to increase Medicare fees and use that money to get rid of some of the spending cuts all sides agreed to in the 2011 Budget Control Act.
A new long-term full budget, not just a longer continuing resolution, needs to be the final product of any negotiations, both Republicans said.
Mr. Rogers said he wanted to make sure the CR was just a short-term bill, saying that allowing the government to operate for all of 2014 on extended funding would be “disastrous.”
“It is a punt to the executive branch for the Congress not to exercise judgement about where our money is spent,” he told reporters.
Mr. Cole agreed that it’s for the best to get back to the proscribed process of passing an annual budget and appropriations to both increase bipartisanship on the Hill and stability in the economy.
“The country is emotionally and politically tired of crisis after crisis. When you run by CRs and debt ceilings, that’s what you’re going to get,” Mr. Cole said. “Far better to just get government functioning the way it’s supposed to in the appropriations sense.”
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