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Posted at 10:22 a.m. on Oct. 8, 2013
Updated 12:12 p.m. | House Republicans will bring to the floor a bill to create a bipartisan, bicameral committee to address the current fiscal impasse that has shut down much of the government and threatens a debt default.
A GOP leadership aide said the committee wouldn’t just handle the continuing resolution needed to fund the government. It would have broader jurisdiction similar to the 2011 Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction, also known as the supercommittee, and would cover the debt limit and other fiscal issues.
A GOP appropriations aide also described the working group as similar to the supercommittee, but on a smaller scale, and without instructions.
“I want to have a conversation,” said Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio. “I’m not drawing lines in the sand. I’m requesting to sit down to resolve our differences.”
Boehner said, “There’s no boundaries here. There’s nothing on the table, there’s nothing off the table. I’m trying to do everything I can to bring people together and have a conversation.”
There is no timetable for the group — formally dubbed the Bicameral Working Group on Deficit Reduction and Economic Growth — to act. It would have 20 members — 10 each from the House and the Senate. Unlike the original supercommittee, it would not be empowered with fast-track rules for consideration of its recommendations on the House and Senate floors.
Separately, House Republicans will propose a bill to pay essential employees who are on the job now. The two bills would merge and then be sent to the Senate. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., said the bill would not pay furloughed workers, nor would it reopen the government.
The question for Senate Democrats is whether they continue their no-negotiation stand and refuse to pay workers who are on the job now.
Democrats up until now have resisted piecemeal fixes except a notable exception for paying soldiers. Senate Democrats and the White House have demanded that Boehner bring a “clean” short-term CR to reopen the government to the floor for a vote before negotiating a longer-term budget deal.
Indeed, President Barack Obama called Boehner Tuesday and reiterated he will not negotiate until Republicans reopen the government and take the threat of a default off the table.
And at a Democratic leadership press conference on Tuesday morning, Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., groaned and shook his head when asked by CQ Roll Call what he thought of the Republican proposal to create a working group that bears a resemblance to the supercommittee.
“Having served as a member of the so-called supercommittee, there was nothing super about it,” Becerra said. “It was just punting, it’s another way of getting out of doing what you should and quite honestly what was borne from that supercommittee was sequester.
“There is no reason why we just can’t get our work done now,” he said.
“We don’t need to have another committee created,” Caucus Vice-Chairman Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y., agreed. “Appoint conferees to the budget.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said on the Senate floor there is an easy solution if Republicans want to negotiate.
“All Speaker Boehner has to do is be reasonable,” he said. “Allow a vote in the House of Representatives on the Senate’s clean continuing resolution — a bill the speaker proposed in the first place. It will pass. The government will reopen. Then we can get back to the negotiating table and work out our budget disagreements. We can even start talking about ways to make the Affordable Care Act work better. And we can even get back to the business of legislating.”
Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.