Democratic Message Muddled as Shutdown Talks Break Down

Posted: Oct 13, 2013 3:52 PM
As negotiations between Democrats and Republicans stalled over the weekend, Harry Reid and Senate Democrats have decided that they're not really feeling a clean debt ceiling increase any more. They're out for more government spending.

In talks between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the main sticking point is now where to establish funding levels for the federal government and for how long. The Republican offer made on Friday -- to set spending at sequestration levels of $988 billion for the next six months -– was rejected by Reid and others on Saturday on the grounds that it was too favorable to the GOP position and discouraged future negotiations.

"[Reid] gave that [$988 billion offer] to Boehner," Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said on Saturday. "Boehner reneged on that. He rejected that, so we don’t start there. We clear back to a clean state and start where we were before -- that is where the appropriations and the budget negotiations need to start from. [Senate Budget Chairwoman] Patty Murray (D-Wash.) should start from negotiating from our standpoint -- $1.059 trillion. If they want to start from their standpoint, fine."

The $988 billion number is what represents a "clean" continuing resolution - and it's the number that Harry Reid said multiple times that he wanted. He changed his mind this weekend.

Meanwhile, President Obama and House minority leader Nancy Pelosi weren't operating on the same page. Even today, they were still discussing a clean debt limit increase, contra what Harry Reid has now moved on to:

President Barack Obama spoke by phone on Sunday with Nancy Pelosi, Democratic leader in the House of Representatives, to discuss the need for "clean" legislation that would increase the debt limit for a year and restart government, free from any other policy demands, the White House said.

It seems like yesterday that Democrats were saying that using the continuing resolution and the debt ceiling as leverage in order to pass new policy was completely out of bounds and would not be tolerated. (It might not have been yesterday - maybe it was only three days ago.) Nonetheless, Harry Reid has now decided that clean continuing resolutions are for suckers, and he wants to try to break the Republicans' will.

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