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What might both parties give up to ‘escape’ shutdown impasse?

October 14, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
Senate leaders showed hope that they might be headed towards an end to the government shutdown, while House remains uneasy about the path forward. Robert Costa of the National Review joins Gwen Ifill to discuss why a short-term deal may be necessary and what concessions both sides may make to resolve the damaging impasse.

GWEN IFILL: Joining us now from Capitol Hill to bring us up to date on where the negotiations stand is Robert Costa, Washington editor for The National Review.

Thank you for joining us.

We just heard Mitch McConnell saying they were looking for a result acceptable to both sides. We heard the president say it felt like things were moving. Where do they stand right now?

ROBERT COSTA, National Review: We do see a deal emerging right now within the Senate. The House remains uneasy about its path forward.

But the Senate bipartisan plan, broadly speaking, would extend the debt limit and it would fund the government until early 2014. And it would also set up a larger fiscal framework for talks later this year, a budget conference.

GWEN IFILL: So are we talking about kick the can down the road, or is this budget conference real?

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ROBERT COSTA: I wouldn’t say it’s kicking the can down the road. Of course, it is, in a sense, a couple of weeks ahead, a couple months ahead.

But what is important here is any major fiscal reforms or compromises can’t be brokered within the next couple of days, so congressional leaders, especially Leader Reid and Leader McConnell, decided to try to have those talks in November and December.

GWEN IFILL: What is this — in negotiation, and both sides have to give something up. In this scenario, if it were to hold, what is the White House giving up?

ROBERT COSTA: I think what the White House is giving up — it’s not so much giving up, so much, as it’s trying to just get through this impasse.

When you talk to people at the White House and senior Democrats, they want to escape from this. And they have tried to battle on sequestration over the past two days, but they know that’s just never going to pass the Republican House. So for now, Democrats have pulled back this push to change the sequestration funding levels.

GWEN IFILL: And have the Republicans completely pulled back on their desire to change the Affordable Care Act?

ROBERT COSTA: Of course, rhetorically speaking and politically, they have not pulled back, but it looks look there — any concession Republicans are winning here is minor. It would be a change to the eligibility requirements, the strength of the eligibility requirements for income regarding who is entering the ACA.

And that’s the only thing Republicans are really winning here, beyond an extension of the debt limit and the funding of the government and the budget conference.

GWEN IFILL: Now, Robert, you have probably worn a hole in the bottom of your shoes working the hallways up on Capitol Hill the last couple of week, much of it on the House side. So this is all being worked out, we assume, so far, between the Senate — Senate Democrats and Republicans, perhaps the White House. What about John Boehner? What about the House?

ROBERT COSTA: The question now for Speaker Boehner is, will he allow the Senate-brokered deal to come to the House floor in the next day or two?

He knows there is a bloc of perhaps 40 conservative hard-liners who will be resistant, but he knows also there is probably a group of 100 to 150 House Republicans who would probably back it. So that is the question. Will he bring it forward? Will he allow a vote on the Senate deal?

And the answer right now is unclear.

GWEN IFILL: Hasn’t the House turned something like this down before?

ROBERT COSTA: It has. But I think, politically, when House Republicans — I was just speaking to a few of them over at the Capitol.

They look at the poll numbers and they want to make sure they avoid political pain related to default. And so right now there is definitely more of an urgency on the conservative side to get something done, at least on the debt ceiling.

GWEN IFILL: You talk about look at the poll numbers. Do people talk among themselves up there on Capitol Hill about this U.S. opinion backlash we have been seeing?

ROBERT COSTA: Oh, certainly.

There is a sense that this defund effort on the right, repeal Obamacare effort has gone on quite too long, and it’s actually hurt the party. And so one of the major leaders behind the scenes is Paul Ryan. And that is why this element of a budget conference later this year sounds like kicking the can down the road, but it’s important, because it is a way for Ryan and other Republican leaders to promise future reforms and for perhaps future concessions from the White House if they just vote for a clean extension now of the debt limit and just postpone talks until later this year.

GWEN IFILL: I know we have been here before, but is the expectation now that, tomorrow, things are going to come together for real on this deal?

ROBERT COSTA: I think so. I think today’s news of seeing Leader Reid and Leader McConnell on the Senate floor together, that’s significant news. Their relationship has often been tense, and for them to be working together at this hour is a crucial point.

GWEN IFILL: Robert Costa, we will all be watching, as I know you will, too, for The National Review. Thank you so much.

ROBERT COSTA: Thank you.