There were some cryptic, but potentially key developments Wednesday in the ongoing debate about federal spending and the deficit.
After two Senate votes, in which both Democratic and Republican-backed plans to fund the government went down to filibusters, I and a handful of other reporters caught Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid walking into Sen. Jon Kyl’s Capitol office. Reid had just come from a meeting with President Obama and other Senate Democratic leaders, where they discussed spending. Kyl is the retiring Senate Minority Whip.
On his way out Reid hinted at some big news.“With this vote out of the way, we’re going to do some serious negotiations now — this paves the way to get something done,” Reid said. “We’re working on a number of issues. But our goal is to fund the government the rest of this year, and then out-years. This isn’t just for the next few weeks. We want to try to get a universal deal, and do something good for the country.”
This sounds like the seeds of a broad plan to both fund the executive branch through the end of the fiscal year and to bring down the deficit on a variety of fronts, in much the way Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) outlined at the Center for American Prospect Wedensday morning.
Publicly, the White House is trying to keep the discussion limited to the pressing matter of keeping the government funded — in other words, to cutting domestic discretionary spending.
“I don’t think that anyone thinks between now and March 18th we will resolve entitlement reform, tax expenditures, and all the other issues that go into a much bigger deal,” said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney. “We need to resolve the issue on the table, which is funding for fiscal year 2011.”
But Reid and Schumer are reading from an entirely different script. Remember, Schumer said today there would be no bipartisan deal on spending if Republicans insist on limiting the discussion to domestic discretionary spending.
Traveling in Europe, Vice President Joe Biden spoke with both House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell before Wednesday’s votes. More information as I get it.