Senate Dems Reject GOP Supercommittee ‘Gimmick’

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Senate Democratic leaders aggressively shot down the House GOP’s new supercommittee-like plan on Tuesday, sticking by their insistence that they won’t negotiate on the budget until Republicans vote to re-open the government and avert default.

“Open the government, pay our debts, and then we’re eager to negotiate on anything,” No. 3 Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer (NY) told reporters on Tuesday. “But another gimmick which says, ‘While we shut the government down, and while we’re threatening default, come to the table’ — it doesn’t work like their previous gizmos didn’t work.”

Republicans are looking for any way to use the fiscal deadlines to extract concessions from Democrats — ideally on Obamacare but potentially on a host of other issues — to placate their anxious conservative base. The plan that emanated Tuesday morning from the House GOP would set up negotiations via a committee made up of six House Republicans, four House Democrats, six Senate Democrats and four Senate Republicans. It would meet daily and be tasked with crafting a fiscal deal on the debt limit by the Oct. 17 deadline.

Throughout the standoffs since the government shut down on Oct. 1 and before the upcoming debt ceiling deadline, Democrats have been emphatic that they will not accede to any GOP demands for the mere purpose of averting fiscal disaster. They aren’t blinking.

“If this is a joke, the American people aren’t laughing,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), a Democratic leadership member, chair of the Budget Committee and erstwhile co-chair of the 2011 supercommittee. “This Republican gimmick is intended to keep two crises going while they again refuse to make any concessions.”

Instead, Senate Democrats intend to proceed with their plan to vote on a “clean” debt limit increase that lasts through the 2014 elections. Schumer said the bill would be introduced Tuesday and move forward as fast as possible in the notoriously slow Senate.

“We’ll see how much delay the Ted Cruzes of the world impose on us,” he said. “If they use every procedural device at their fingertips, we’d get to vote next Wednesday.” Schumer said leadership hasn’t started courting the votes but “I can’t believe that Republicans are willing to risk default so I am optimistic we’ll get more than six” GOP senators and “just about every Democrat” to help break a likely filibuster.

“I think in the next week, you’re going to hear Wall Street and the business community really come down hard on this place. They won’t have an effect on the tea party people but they will have an effect on mainstream Republicans,” Schumer told reporters. “I think it’s going to get overwhelming how bad this is.”

Although Senate Democrats nixed the supercommittee plan, their response suggests the GOP is moving closer to a fig leaf that involves instructions to look for fiscal reforms in order to resolve the crises. Their current offer makes negotiations a prerequisite, but if it wasn’t, Democrats say they would agree to work out a longer-term solution.

Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) held firm, telling reporters in the afternoon that a clean debt limit increase would amount to “unconditional surrender” for Republicans.

“That’s not the way our government works,” he said. “At times like this, the American people expect their leaders to sit down and have a conversation. I want that conversation to occur now.”

President Barack Obama reiterated during a press conference Tuesday that lifting the debt ceiling is non-negotiable, but he’ll gladly negotiate on budget issues after default is averted.

“I’m not going to breach a basic principle that would weaken the presidency, change our democracy, and do great damage to ordinary people just in order to go along with what the house republicans are talking about,” the president said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sahil Kapur is TPM's senior congressional reporter and Supreme Court correspondent. His articles have been published in the Huffington Post, The Guardian and The New Republic. Email him at sahil@talkingpointsmemo.com and follow him on Twitter at @sahilkapur.
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