Boehner says Obama rejected House GOP offer; talks shift to Senate

<i>This post has been updated, as indicated below.</i>

WASHINGTON -- Speaker John A. Boehner told House Republicans on Saturday that the White House has rejected their compromise proposal to lift the nation’s debt ceiling and possibly reopen the government, while blaming President Obama for failing to negotiate in good faith.

Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) said that Boehner (R-Ohio) told his rank-and-file in a closed-door meeting that, in retrospect, it was “obvious” that Obama “had no intention of negotiating with us in good faith.”

Asked to characterize the mood of his party members as they left the meeting, Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) said, “People are incredulously mystified.”


Saturday’s statements from House Republicans marked a potential step backward one day after both parties expressed cautious optimism that negotiations were on a path toward compromise.

A rift appeared to be growing between House Republicans and their counterparts in the Senate, with new talks on a possible alternative path underway between Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the first significant negotiations in months between the two.

The House adjourned for the weekend after a brief and at times chaotic Saturday morning session. In the Senate, a Democratic proposal to raise the nation’s debt limit through next year was blocked by Republicans on a 53-45 procedural vote, failing to reach the 60 votes required to pass.

[Updated 10:54 a.m. PDT Oct. 12: White House spokesman Jay Carney, noting that the government will not be able to borrow to pay its bill within five days, called the Senate’s failure to pass the debt-limit extension “unfortunate.”

“This bill would have taken the threat of default off the table, and given our nation’s businesses and the economy the certainty we need,” he said in a statement.]

The House GOP proposal would have launched a two-track negotiation over at least the next six weeks. In return for lifting the debt ceiling through mid-November, the president would have to enter into talks focused on tax reform and entitlement spending. The House would also have voted to reopen the government if the administration agreed to new negotiations on spending levels for this fiscal year.

While the White House considered that proposal Friday, Obama held a meeting with Senate Republicans that focused on a separate plan from Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) to fund the government for six months and raise the debt limit through January.

In return, Collins wanted the administration to support a two-year delay of a tax on medical device makers that is part of the Affordable Care Act. The deal would also have given federal agencies new flexibility to deal with the across-the-board spending cuts that were mandated by the so-called sequester.

Some House Republicans expressed concern that the plan, which appears to have support among other Senate Republicans, was undercutting their negotiating position. Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said he could not support the Collins plan and said the White House was trying to “jam us with the Senate.”

“I think what he’s trying to do is undermine our position by getting the Senate to cut some kind of ridiculous deal,” Fleming said.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), entering a meeting of Senate Republicans on Saturday, conceded the Collins plan was likely to go over in the House like a “lead balloon.”

“I think we are a long ways from them,” Collins said of House Republicans. “The House strategy hasn’t worked, so let’s see what does.”

There were numerous signs that the mood had soured in the Capitol. Before their chamber adjourned until late Monday, House Republicans pulled from consideration another in a series of narrowly targeted spending bills to reopen certain government functions. The action came after Democrats attempted to use a procedural tactic to call a vote on a funding bill that would reopen the government without any other conditions.

One-by-one, Democrats lined up to speak at the microphones on the House floor to make the request. Republicans eventually ended what they called a “show” by the minority, calling an unrelated procedural vote.

The office of Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) also accused Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.), a member of the Democratic leadership team, of “putting his hands on a staffer.” Crowley denied it.

“What I said to him was that I thought that his behavior on the House floor was not fitting with the decorum of the House. He agreed and he apologized,” Crowley said.

Separately, Rep. Scott Rigell, a Republican from a swing district in Virginia who has supported a Democratic effort to reopen the government, clashed with a member of the Republican leadership.

Speaking in a Capitol hallway with Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the GOP conference chairwoman, Rigell expressed frustration for what he said was Boehner and Cantor’s inability to outline clear goals the party was seeking in budget talks.

“We’re on the same page. But we need to be able to articulate specific objectives,” he said in the exchange.

Twitter: @MikeMemoli

Twitter: @ByBrianBennett