Two top senators gave bleak assessments Sunday of the likelihood of Congress swiftly reaching deals to end one fiscal crisis and avert another, with the Republican lawmaker saying Democrats are now overreaching in their demands.
“We will see our way through this, but the last 24 hours have not been good,” Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker told “Fox News Sunday.” “I agree that Republicans started with the overreach, but now Democrats are one tick too cute. They are now overreaching.”
Corker argues that Senate Democrats want Republicans, as part of the fiscal negotiations, to roll back the steep cuts to government spending, known as sequester and signed into law in the 2011 Budget Control Act.
He told Fox News the cuts are just as much the law of the land as ObamaCare, which Republicans tried to dismantle in the deals – one to end the partial shutdown of government services that started Oct. 1 and another to agree on the nation's borrowing limit before Thursday’s deadline.
Corker also said he thinks the White House told Senate Democrats earlier in the weekend to pull back.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is among 24 senators who have given bipartisan support to a proposal put forth by Maine GOP Sen. Susan Collins that Majority Leader Harry Reid rejected Sunday.
Manchin told Fox News he had “no idea” what Senate leadership now wants or where negotiations will go next.
Said Corker: “It’s not clear how this will end. Both sides need to come to the middle of the road.”
The Senate returns to work Sunday with Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell keeping an open dialogue, which appears to show the best opportunity to resolve the fiscal crises is now in the upper chamber.
After rejecting the Collins proposal, leaders of the Democratic-led Senate headed down Pennsylvania Avenue to meet with President Obama at the White House.
Whether they will try to revive the proposal was unclear. They left the 75-minute meeting without talking to reporters. Sen. Collins appeared hopeful that Democrats may be open to reviving the plan.
"Despite [Senate Majority Leader] Sen. Harry Reid's unfortunate dismissal of the 6-point plan, …. it continues to attract bipartisan support,” Collins said. “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 … is within our reach."
Reid rejected the plan -- which calls for funding the government for six months and increasing the federal debt limit through January -- purportedly, in part, because the spending level of $967 billion next year was too low, despite it providing more flexibility in administering the federal budget cuts under sequester.
Collins’ plan also calls for a two-year delay on ObamaCare's medical device tax and requires income verification for Americans seeking subsidies for ObamaCare.
“Susan Collins is one of my favorite senators, Democrat or Republican,” Reid said. “I appreciate her effort, as always, to find a consensus. But the plan that she suggested … is not going any place at this stage.”
The upper chamber also failed Saturday to get the necessary 60 votes on a bill to increase the debt limit through 2014 that was “clean” of Republican demands for spending cuts or changes to ObamaCare.
In the Republican-controlled House, negotiations ended abruptly when Republicans refused to let Democrats vote on a bill to reopen the government, which resulted in an exchange between a staffer from each party.
Earlier in the day, House Speaker John Boehner told his caucus in a closed-door meeting that he and the president still have no deal. The White House rejected a House plan to open the government for just six weeks.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.