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Posted at 4:20 p.m. on Oct. 12, 2013
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, continues to promote a framework she has advanced with 11 other senators of both parties to reopen the government and avert default, even after its rejection by Senate Democratic leaders.
As Roll Call reported earlier Saturday, Collins has met multiple times with the bipartisan group, though after Democrats publicly rebuffed her effort, she canceled a press conference where multiple senators were invited and planned to appear.
“Despite Senator Harry Reid’s unfortunate dismissal of the 6-point plan that I have advanced with Senators Lisa Murkowski and Kelly Ayotte, it continues to attract bipartisan support,” Collins said in a statement Saturday. “Six Senate Republicans and six Senate Democrats met twice today to discuss how we could move forward with the plan or some version of it. These meetings were constructive and give me hope that a bipartisan solution to reopen government and prevent default is within our reach.”
Collins formally outlined the working proposal as part of her statement. According to the release put forth by the Maine Republican’s office, this is the six-point plan supported by the bipartisan working group.
1. Fund the government at an annual rate of $986 billion for six months.
2. Extend the debt limit until January 31, 2014.
3. Delay the Medical Device Tax for two years. The plan would delay the 2.3 percent excise tax on the sales of medical equipment, such as pacemakers and defibrillators, established by the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. During budget resolution votes earlier this year, a Hatch-Klobuchar amendment supporting repeal passed the Senate by a 79-20 margin. To offset the cost of repealing the medical device tax, the plan would extend “pension smoothing” provisions contained in the MAP-21 bill, passed in 2012.
4. Provide federal agencies with greater flexibility to fund priorities. The plan includes language to provide federal agencies with flexibility to mitigate the impact of automatic spending cuts imposed by sequestration. The proposal would also assure appropriate Congressional oversight of these decisions by requiring agencies to submit their spending proposals to the House and Senate committees of jurisdiction.
5. Include income verification provisions to prevent fraud and ensure only eligible individuals receive subsidies on the insurance exchanges.
6. Direct an immediate conference on the budget with instructions for conferees to report by January 15, 2014.
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., are engaged in delicate and preliminary talks to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling before Congress’ Oct. 17 default deadline.
The signal from McConnell — delivered by numerous GOP senators leaving a morning caucus meeting — that he is open to negotiating is a strong sign that he intends to be a key player in any final agreement, as he has at previous fiscal deadlines. Senate Democrats express private worry that the White House could undercut their united front against the GOP, and any administration official (especially Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.) engaging McConnell could be the surest realization of those fears.
The Senate will gavel back into session Sunday at 1 p.m. But the clock is running to get something done before Thursday, and though Democratic sources hoped that no GOP senator would object to ceding back time on a deal, someone like Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, could still force lawmakers to run out the clock, which would jam House leaders even more than they already are.