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House cancels vote on budget, focus turns to Senate

Oct. 10, 2013: House Speaker John Boehner, joined by fellow Republicans, speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington.AP

House Republicans abruptly cancelled plans to take up a revised budget proposal Tuesday evening after leaders struggled to round up votes, leading Senate negotiators to resume bipartisan talks in hopes of reaching a deal before Thursday's debt ceiling deadline.

House GOP leaders, after a closed door session, announced there would be no votes Tuesday night. With that decision, focus shifted back to the Senate and talks between Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid and his Republican counterpart, Sen. Mitch McConnell.

A spokesman for Reid issued a statement late Tuesday saying, "Senator Reid and Senator McConnell have re-engaged in negotiations and are optimistic that an agreement is within reach."

The emerging framework on the Senate side would raise the debt ceiling through February, and include a spending bill meant to last through Jan. 15. That version would not include any provision relating to the ObamaCare medical device tax. 

Amid discontent on the House side, conservatives were also unhappy with the Senate version and raised concerns that Senate Republicans would go along with it. 

Some were still holding out hope that Republicans could score a bigger victory against ObamaCare, and singled out GOP senators like Bob Corker of Tennessee, John McCain of Arizona, and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who have all suggested the initial push to try and defund ObamaCare as part of the fiscal deal was a bad strategy. 

Kansas Rep. Tim Huelskamp panned them as part of the "Senate Surrender Caucus." "And they wonder why conservatives don't trust them," he told FoxNews.com. 

Heritage Action for America -- the political advocacy arm of the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation, which has led efforts to defund the health care law -- also remained critical of the Senate side. 

"To their credit, House Republicans responded to their constituents by pushing to defund this unworkable, un-affordable and unfair law," said Mike Needham, chief executive for Heritage Action. "Unfortunately, their leverage is being severely undermined by many of their Senate colleagues who do not share their determination." 

While the Senate had originally been crafting a bipartisan bill to address the budget impasse, House Republicans surprised Senate negotiators earlier Tuesday when they announced they were pursuing their own framework. Moving quickly, House Speaker John Boehner's office announced late Tuesday afternoon that the chamber would vote by the end of the night. 

But a vital meeting of the House Rules Committee, which prepares bills for the floor, was then postponed -- a signal that House leaders were lacking the necessary votes. 

Fox News is told that a decision by the Heritage Action to come out against the emerging bill drove some Republicans to oppose the plan -- and helped sideline the proposal. 

The group complained that the House plan would "do nothing" to stall "massive new entitlements" in ObamaCare. 

The revised House plan was aimed at both ending the partial government shutdown and raising the debt ceiling, but also imposing one ObamaCare-related provision. 

Though Republicans have considered over the last several weeks a range of provisions relating to ObamaCare, the one they settled on in this package would force Congress, the president, and many other administration officials and staff onto ObamaCare without additional subsidies. GOP lawmakers described the proposed mandate as a matter of "fairness." 

"If the president and Senate Democrats are going to force the American people to live under ObamaCare, then they and all Washington leaders should not be shielded from the law," one GOP aide said. 

The idea was to pass the bill in the House, and effectively dare the Senate to hold up the bill -- and risk missing the debt-ceiling deadline -- because senators don't want to submit to ObamaCare. 

But with some conservatives no longer on board, it was unclear whether Boehner would try to tweak and salvage the package -- or kick the debate back over the Senate. 

Amid the confusion, some Democrats urged the Republicans to throw in the towel. "You have two options -- you can get bowled over by the Senate or you can get bowled over by the Senate," said one House Democratic aide.

Senate leaders had effectively hit pause on their own negotiations while talks play out on the House side. While Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other Democrats blasted Boehner for pursuing a House plan, sources indicated the Senate was willing to wait on the House -- if for no other reason than, procedurally, it would save a lot of time. That's because a measure coming from the House could not be filibustered. 

Fox News is told the latest plan to emerge in the House would end the partial government shutdown by funding the government through Dec. 15. It would also raise the debt ceiling through Feb. 7 -- in turn averting the looming Thursday deadline to raise the debt cap. 

Unlike a prior proposal, it would not include a provision delaying the medical device tax in ObamaCare. It would include a provision limiting the Treasury Department's ability to buy more time when faced with future debt-ceiling deadlines. 

Importantly, the plan would kick other budget decisions, including the debate on the medical device tax, to a conference committee. 

Republicans earlier claimed the details of their plan were not so far off from a bipartisan approach being crafted in the Senate. Republicans urged Democrats to give it a chance, and questioned why they would preemptively reject it. 

"To say, 'absolutely categorically not, we will not consider what the Republicans in the House of Representatives are doing,' in my view, is piling on," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said on the Senate floor, as Democrats lined up against the House plan. "Let's sit down and work this out." 

The mood in Washington has shifted drastically in the last day, with both sides of the aisle hurling accusations at one another when, the night before, bipartisan leaders in the Senate were claiming on the floor to have made significant progress. 

White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage called the House approach a "partisan attempt to appease a small group of Tea Party Republicans who forced the government shutdown in the first place." 

In the most visceral remarks, Reid alleged Boehner is trying to "preserve his role at the expense of the country" -- and said his plan will not pass the Senate. 

"Extremist Republicans in the House of Representatives are attempting to torpedo the Senate's bipartisan progress with a bill that can't pass the Senate ... and won't pass the Senate," he said. 

Amid the partisan crossfire, President Obama met with House Democratic leadership Tuesday afternoon. 

Fox News' Chad Pergram, Bret Baier and Mike Emanuel and FoxNews.com's Joseph Weber contributed to this report.

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