No deal in House; shutdown talks shift to Senate GOP - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

No deal in House; shutdown talks shift to Senate GOP

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By Luke Russert, Kasie Hunt and Carrie Dann, NBC News

Top Senate lawmakers worked Saturday to craft a deal to end the government shutdown and avert default on the nation's debts after talks between the White House and House Republicans yielded no agreement to end the impasse. 

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are now in talks to try to broker a deal, lawmakers said.

"The only thing that's happening right now is Senator Reid and Senator McConnell are talking and I view that as progress," Senator John Cornyn, R-Texas, told reporters. "I hope that continues towards a bipartisan resolution."

A loose working group of moderate Republicans -- led by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine -- had been working on a proposal that would reopen the government until March and lift the debt ceiling through January. But Senate Democratic leaders rejected that idea.

According to aides, Democrats disagreed with the length of a proposed government funding measure in the Collins proposal. Her plan would have only funded the government until March 31st, 2014. Senate Democrats wanted that time period to be longer.

Democratic leaders also wanted a longer debt limit increase than Collins had proposed. 

Reid and the Democratic caucus headed for a closed-door meeting to discuss the path forward immediately after the Senate, as expected, failed to advance a measure that would have raised the debt ceiling until after the 2014 midterm elections. 

In a statement, the White House called the blockage of the "clean" debt bill "unfortunate." 

"Congress must do its job and raise the debt limit to pay the bills we have incurred and avoid default," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said. 

News of the talks came after House GOP leaders announced that conversations with the White House to forge a path forward had all but collapsed. In a Saturday morning meeting, House Speaker John Boehner told GOP lawmakers in the House that President Barack Obama had yet to respond to House proposals to end the fiscal impasse. 

The message of that meeting, sources in the room said, was a "let's stick together" pep rally, with leaders saying Senate Republicans must "hold strong" and fight against any plan that fails to hew to GOP goals. 

After that meeting, Reid slammed House Republicans for their "defiant" posture after the meeting and urged cooler heads to prevail in the upper chamber. "I say to my friends on the Republican side of this Senate, time is running out," he said.  

After what appeared to be a productive meeting with Obama on Thursday, the GOP-led House and the White House failed to reach any agreement on spending even the shutdown approaches the end of its second week and a deadline to raise the nation's debt ceiling looms.

Boehner informed the conference that they're waiting to see what Senate Republicans offer to the White House, but that if the House GOP stays strong and united, they can reject any proposal that they think does not go far enough.

The House does not plan to vote on any legislation Saturday to address the shutdown or the debt ceiling, although members have been advised that they could be called back for votes on short notice. After a series of unrelated measures to be considered Saturday before noon, there are no House  votes currently scheduled until 6:30 p.m. on Monday.

House Democrats kept up attempts to bring up a "clean" continuing resolution that would restore funding for the government, marching into the House chamber and making repeated procedural requests for a vote. But without support from moderate House Republicans, those efforts were only for show.

One sticking point in the negotiations so far has been the length of the debt ceiling extension. 

House Republicans had put forward a six-week delay, which Democrats argue would set up another fiscal crisis right before the crucial holiday shopping season. 

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