How did the sequester get thrown into this debate? That is the question Republican leadership is asking this morning.
The terms of the debate have now shifted over the shutdown and debt ceiling, as lawmakers begin the week running up to the debt-ceiling deadline, with Senate leaders Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell struggling to reach a deal.
Republicans are now accusing Democrats of overplaying their hand and moving the goal post farther back, with Democrats throwing in the sequester, sensing a dysfunctional Republican caucus.
All of this is taking place behind a false backdrop, with congressional leaders from both parties falsely claiming that a default is possible without a deal. That is simply not true. The U.S. has adequate monies to pay it bills despite the debt limit, but each party is using fear tactics to get the other party to capitulate.
To be sure, both parties are having a tough time even keeping track of what the other wants out of a deal. After one budget proposal after the other fell apart over the weekend, Republican lawmakers on Sunday accused Democrats of trying to force Republicans to roll back across-the-board spending cuts known as sequester, and they are.
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., on “Fox News Sunday,” indicated that Republicans had gone too far in their gambit of insisting that dismantling ObamaCare must be part of any spending bill to fully reopen the government, which has been partially shut down since Oct. 1.
Corker, however, said Democrats have now overplayed their hand by going too far by demanding the rollback of sequester. He said that the 2011 Budget Control Act makes the cuts just as much “the law of the land” as Obamacare, which had been the Democrats’ argument for weeks.
“I agree that Republicans started with the overreach, but now Democrats are one tick too cute,” he told Fox News. “They are now overreaching.”
He said “both sides need to come to the middle of the road.”
West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, among a dozen bipartisan senators working with Republican Sen. Susan Collins on a plan, told Fox News, “I don’t know what [Senate leadership] wants. We are in a crisis mode now.”
On Monday, Manchin told Fox News that lawmakers “need to work more” on the Collins plan. He voiced dismay that Reid, the Senate majority leader, knocked down that plan on Saturday.
The plan laid out Sen. Susan Collins would have funded the government for 6 months, raised the debt limit through Jan. 31, delayed the health care law’s medical device tax, and had bipartisan support.
But, unsurprisingly, Majority Leader Harry Reid dismissed the plan on Saturday right off.
Republicans want to continue current spending at $986.7 billion and leave untouched the new round of cuts on Jan. 15 that would reduce the amount to $967 billion.
Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, told reporters the two sides are roughly $70 billion apart, the difference between the $1.058 trillion Senate budget amount and the number agreed upon by Republicans.
“It’s time for Democrat leaders to take `yes’ for an answer,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement.
Democrats denied they were trying to even dismantle those levels.
A Senate Democratic leadership aide said “the suggestion that Democrats insist on breaking the budget caps is false and belied by the facts.”
Democrats argue that they would accept current spending levels for a short period — just not as long as Collins proposed — so they can attempt to dismantle the sequester cuts in the very near future.