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Will Congress allow a government default?

October 12, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
The debt ceiling deadline is growing closer and there is still no sign of a deal in Washington. Will Congress allow a government default? Hari Sreenivasan talks to Meredith Shiner from Roll Call about the major issues thwarting negotiations and the timeline leading up to the debt ceiling deadline.
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HARI SREENIVASAN: To try to explain where all this is headed we’re joined now from Washington by Meredith Shiner, she’s a staff writer for Roll Call.

So thanks for joining us. We’re down to what, a hundred hours or so before the debt ceiling deadline, walk us through maybe in detail what happens between now and then?

MEREDITH SHINER: Ok, so right now the Senate is still in session, the House was in this morning and there are several groups of senators who are trying to find some sort of deal because it became abundantly clear that the House couldn’t move on their own plan.

So according to multiple Republican senators leaving a meeting this morning, Sen. Mitch McConnell and Sen. Harry Reid, the two leaders of the Senate are working to try some- to find some sort of agreement. You also have a larger group of bipartisan senators, led by Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican of Maine, who are trying to find another compromise position as well.

So at least there’s movement, earlier this week there wasn’t movement at all, it seemed to be that both sides were very much entrenched in their positions that they did not want to negotiate, unless the other side were willing to make concessions, but I think Democrats right now feel like they have all the leverage, there was that NBC/Wall Street Journal poll this week that really showed some terrible numbers for Republicans.

So I think that Democrats are moving forward with the knowledge that the Republicans are gonna have to give more in this, because at this point they feel like the Republicans have kept the government shut down and are basically steering Congress towards this debt limit deadline with no real way out.

HARI SREENIVASAN: So if the Senate Republicans make more moderate concessions or approaches to the administration, how likely is it that the House Republicans will go along with it?

MEREDITH SHINER: You know, I think that that’s the biggest question right now, I think what Mitch McConnell is able to do and what Senate Republicans are able to do might not be the same as what John Boehner is able to do with his caucus. But at the end of the day, if Senate Republicans, Senate Democrats and the administration come to some sort of agreement and they send it to the House, it’ll be up to John Boehner to only find a handful of Republicans because I think you’ll see a majority of House Democratic support.

I think one of the bigger questions to date is how willing is John Boehner to move a bill that he knows won’t have the support of the majority of his caucus. To date it’s been unwilling but I think Republicans, particularly Republicans in leadership have been hearing from the business community, they’ve been hearing from Wall Street donors, people who are typically the bread and butter Republican supporters, who are questioning why this party would let a extreme faction of their group basically decide that they could take this debt limit argument to the brink again when it could have serious economic consequences.

HARI SREENIVASAN: So what happens to the tea party or Sen. Ted Cruz who’s become one of the faces of their ideology in this all?

MEREDITH SHINER: Well, Senator Ted Cruz has taken a very distinct approach to promoting his agenda, I think if you look at someone like Sen. Rand Paul for example, who also has a lot of tea party support, he’s been much more willing to play nice with his colleagues, to deal with Mitch McConnell, to have votes on his measures, but not to find the success of those votes as a binary win or lose, I think that as long as we’re talking about his policy items, he’s happy.

Ted Cruz is not that way, I think he’s made this fight a lot more difficult for Republicans by making it about a healthcare law there was no political way to defund or repeal. So I don’t know what the future for him is within the Republican conference in these next few years after this fight if Republicans are able to actually work with Democrats to open up the government, but the question is whether or not he cares, I don’t know that he is really all that interested in dealing with his colleagues, he said yesterday at the Value Voters Summit that he went over the head of leadership and dealt directly with the American people so he’ll always have grassroots support.

But I don’t know that that’s enough to either advance any sort of national run because you need an infrastructure and fundraising and it’s certainly not enough to deal with your own colleagues to get anything done legislatively.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Well Sen. Reid has warned that the markets will react negatively tomo- Monday morning, is there any real chance that there is not a deal done before the debt limit clock runs out?

MEREDITH SHINER: Well, so another thing that you have to remember is that given Senate procedure, if any one senator objects, you could have to eat up to 30 hours after a procedural motion, so someone like Ted Cruz could in fact step in and try to make that clock run out, so there is some pressure to try get something either today or tomorrow.

But if you don’t wait that time, even if there were an agreement today, you wouldn’t see a vote until Monday morning, and then it will really be up to the House to take those two, three days and see if they can pass something but I don’t think that they’re going to have much of a choice to send a bill back, I think they’re going to have to find a way to pass whatever the Senate sends them.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Meredith Shiner from Roll Call, thanks so much.

MEREDITH SHINER: Thank you.