JUDY WOODRUFF: Our lead story tonight: With the clock ticking toward the hour the debt limit is breached, and the government still shut down, any bits of optimism here in Washington all but evaporated, this as disagreement among Republicans morphed into disarray.
NewsHour congressional correspondent Kwame Holman has our report.
KWAME HOLMAN: The focus had been on bipartisan negotiations in the Senate, when House Republicans came out of a closed-door meeting this morning.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-Ohio: There have been no decisions about what exactly we will go, but we are going to continue to work with our members on both sides of the aisle to try to make sure that there is no issue of default and to get our government reopened.
KWAME HOLMAN: The House Republican leaders did float a proposal to fund the government through January 15 and raise the debt ceiling through February 7. That much mirrors the Senate plan. There also was talk of delaying a tax on medical devices that helps fund the health care law, and dropping health care subsidies for lawmakers and top administration officials.
But a number of House conservatives voiced doubts. And Democrats were quick to pounce as well. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid accused House Republicans of a blatant attack on bipartisanship.
SEN. HARRY REID, D-Nev.: 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, can’t pass the Senate and won’t pass the Senate.
KWAME HOLMAN: House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi echoed the criticism. And from the other end of Pennsylvania avenue, White House spokesman Jay Carney joined in.
JAY CARNEY, White House Press Secretary: When it comes to sort of demanding ransom to try to rally Tea Party members in exchange for opening the government or raising the debt ceiling, that is not acceptable.
KWAME HOLMAN: It was all too much for Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona. He’s blamed party colleagues in the House for the government shutdown, but today he faulted Democrats.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-Ariz.: To categorically reject what the House of Representatives and the speaker is doing — and I think he’s pretty courageous in what he’s doing — in my view is not serving the American people. So let’s stop this. Let’s stop it, sit down, consider the speaker’s proposal, get our proposal done, and then get this resolved, which we can do in the next 24 hours.
KWAME HOLMAN: Before the House Republican plan emerged, Senate leaders from both parties said they were making progress on their plan. Aides said they hoped to seal an agreement before the day was out. Within hours, though, everything seemed to grind to a halt.
By mid-afternoon, the Senate’s number two Democrat, Dick Durbin, announced the negotiations in the Senate were suspended pending something more acceptable from House Republicans. Still, later, Speaker Boehner’s office said the House will vote tonight on a revised bill to end the standoff. It drops the provisions delaying the tax on medical devices.
Meanwhile, the partial government shutdown entered its third week and the deadline for raising the debt limit stood just two days away. The Treasury Department has warned that, come Thursday, it no longer will be able to borrow funds to pay the country’s bills.
JUDY WOODRUFF: To add to cause for worry, the Fitch debt rating agency warned late today that it’s putting the federal government’s AAA credit rating under review.
For the latest on where things stand, we’re joined from Capitol Hill by Carrie Budoff Brown of Politico.
Carrie, this is changing as we speak. What is the latest?
CARRIE BUDOFF BROWN, White House Reporter, Politico: The latest is that the House bill appears to be falling apart.
The Rules Committee was supposed to be meeting at this hour. They have delayed it indefinitely, which means that the support is not there in the House. And while that could be taken as a negative or a setback of sorts, it’s really not. Democrats and the White House and the Senate were banking on the House falling short, hoping that that clears the way now for the Reid-McConnell deal that was coming together last night that gave a lot of people hope, that that will now be able to move forward.
We don’t know if that’s exactly what is going to happen right now, but that’s what Democrats in Washington have been waiting around all day for, hoping that the House, that Speaker Boehner could not pull out this bill, pull out the votes for this bill, and they will just have to go back to where they were essentially 24 hours ago.
JUDY WOODRUFF: What happened among House Republicans today to cause them to go from one plan in the morning to a completely different one in late afternoon?
CARRIE BUDOFF BROWN: I mean, it’s not a surprising development.
This has really been the pattern for this House Republican Conference. You have a group of hard-core Republicans, Tea Party members who really don’t want to accept a debt limit raise at all, and that attaching some concessions to it on Obamacare just wasn’t enough to get them on board.
And even attaching more than that of course would make it unpalatable to the Senate. So, there’s really — it’s really become clear that there’s not really anything out there that’s going to — coming out of the House that will appease both Democrats and the far-right Tea Party caucus. And you have the situation where — that Speaker Boehner is in tonight where he is just unable to pass anything through the House without some Democratic support.
And Minority Leader Pelosi has said that she will have 100 percent of her members voting against any kind of bill coming out of the House, at least in this current form. So, that left the speaker short on his side of the aisle.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, just quickly, the speaker still saying he will not put something forward that would depend on Democratic votes to put it over the top, that he wants something that his Republicans can pass alone?
CARRIE BUDOFF BROWN: Yes, at this point, that is his position.
But, you know, tomorrow, if Washington wakes up and there’s no solution, the only hope really right now for the White House, for the president is that the speaker backs off that position, that the Senate can move something through their chamber with a broad bipartisan support and that puts the House in a position where Speaker Boehner will have to just accept it. That’s happened before in these close-deadline situations, and they’re just hoping for a repeat at this point.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Carrie, in just a few seconds, how would you describe the — the — the sense of the people you’re talking to? Are they worried? Are they confident this is going to get fixed?
CARRIE BUDOFF BROWN: Yes, I spent the day at the White House, where last night there was a lot of optimism.
Today, it was irritation, frustration, a feeling that they have wasted another 24 hours, that even if things do get moving by tomorrow, they may not pass what they need to pass by tomorrow night, so there will be a lapse into Thursday, where there’s technically a breach of the debt ceiling. Their only hope right now is that the Senate gets moving.
But, yes, people are extraordinarily frustrated, irritated. They have seen this movie play out before and they are hoping for a better ending.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, I think the country may be, too.
CARRIE BUDOFF BROWN: Absolutely.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Carrie Budoff Brown,thank you.
CARRIE BUDOFF BROWN: Thanks, Judy.