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Senate leaders still searching for a deal

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid leaves the Capitol building Sunday. Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images

There have been a lot of clocks to watch lately.

Monday marks day 14 of a partial government shutdown. The Treasury Department will exhaust its borrowing authority on Thursday. And a symbolic timepiece in the Senate even stopped ticking thanks to the fiscal fight.

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But lawmakers are anxiously awaiting the financial markets’ reaction to a weekend that began with signs of progress and ended with nothing more than hopeful words that a discussion would continue.

Late Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid described a phone call with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell as “productive” and “substantive,” but gave little hint as to how a standoff would be resolved. The previous day, Senate Democrats had rejected a deal put forward by Maine GOP Sen. Susan Collins. House Republicans, meanwhile, remained skeptical that any agreement passed in the Senate to reopen the government and lift the nation’s debt ceiling could win approval in the GOP-controlled chamber.

“I’m optimistic about the prospects for a positive conclusion to the issues before this country today,” Reid said on the floor Sunday evening.

As for those negotiations, some Democrats are now saying they want to reexamine the deep spending cuts known as the sequester as lawmakers work to craft a compromise and reopen the government.

“I am more optimistic than most we could come to an agreement. That was one place where the House Republicans and the president were not at total loggerheads,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “The plan would be open up the government immediately for a period of time before the sequester hits [Jan. 15] and then have serious discussions where we might be able to undo the sequester. I’m optimistic that could work.”

That point was reinforced by a Senate Democratic aide, who noted that lawmakers are not seeking to undo the sequester cuts in the short-term, but want to peel them back as part of talks over 2014 funding levels.

Despite the previously announced objections of Democrats, McConnell released a statement Sunday offering support for the Collins proposal, referring to the sequester as “the law of the land.”

“There is a bipartisan plan in place that has the support of Democrat and Republican Senators. It would reopen the government, prevent a default, provide the opportunity for additional budget negotiations around Washington’s long-term debt, and maintain the commitment that Congress made to reduce Washington spending,” McConnell said. “It’s time for Democrat leaders to take ‘yes’ for an answer,” he added.

But a handful of Democrats who have been negotiating with Collins on her proposal countered with a statement of their own that made clear they had not endorsed the plan as presently written.

“We have been involved in productive, bipartisan discussions with Senator Collins and other Republican senators, but we do not support the proposal in its current form,” said Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, along with Maine independent Angus King.

“There are negotiations, but there is no agreement,” they added.

With no deal, top international officials openly worried over the weekend about the global risk posed by the fiscal standoff.

Zachary A. Goldfarb and Jim Tankersley, meanwhile, report that the Obama administration will soon need to begin making tough choices about delaying or suspending “tens of billions of dollars in Social Security checks, food stamps and unemployment benefits if negotiations to raise the federal debt ceiling are not resolved this week.”

Adding to the tension Sunday was a protest at the World War II Memorial in Washington. Tea party favorites including former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and GOP Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee attended the disturbance, which included a few skirmishes with authorities as it concluded at the White House. (And veterans groups plan to stage a major event Tuesday.)

As we entered the weekend, Kwame Holman reported on the latest coming out of the president’s in-person meeting with Senate Republicans. Watch Friday’s segment below:


NewsHour Weekend picked up the shutdown coverage. Hari Sreenivasan got the latest from Roll Call’s Meredith Shiner and from Christina, and he also explored voter frustration with the major political parties with Nathan Gonzales of the Rothenberg Political Report.

Watch the Saturday show here or below:

And watch Sunday’s program here or below:


  • Virginia Republicans are already doing a post-mortem on a race they appear poised to lose for the governor’s mansion.
  • As Reid and McConnell attempt to work a deal, the Washington Post’s Paul Kane reminds us they actually have a bitter history.
  • McConnell is reporting $10 million in the bank for his re-election bid in Kentucky. The Republican had a strong third quarter and raised more than $2 million.
  • The special election for a senator in New Jersey is two days away, and Newark Mayor Cory Booker leads Republican Steve Lonegan by 10 points.
  • Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rep. Steve Israel says the shutdown is helping his party recruit for the 2014 midterms.
  • Organizing for Action, the spinoff of the president’s re-election campaign, announced Friday that it raised $7.7 million in the third quarter, for a total of $20.8 million over eight months. An OFA official told reporters that 98 percent of the donors are giving small amounts, or less than $59 on average. The group posted online its donors who contributed more than $250.
  • Politico’s Josh Gerstein examines “exasperation” among federal judges.
  • Sen. Ted Cruz and Mr. Obama had a tense exchange at the White House Friday.
  • The House named Farm Bill conferees to negotiate the big differences between the two chambers’ bills.
  • Ana Marie Cox truth-squads on the health care law for The Guardian.
  • Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, got in some hot water Friday by criticizing Sen. John McCain.
  • Real Clear Politics sets the record straight on gerrymandering.
  • Journalists are seeking data about health insurance exchanges from the government.
  • The Statue of Liberty reopened on Sunday after the state government agreed to fully fund the daily operations of the national park. “We will not allow this international symbol of freedom to remain closed because of the dysfunction and gridlock of Washington,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo.
  • Read about this week’s New Yorker magazine cover that skewers Washington.
  • Even if you aren’t into the Red Sox, you’ve got to appreciate this amazing play.

NEWSHOUR: #notjustaTVshow

  • Margaret Warner interviewed Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai Friday about her activism and her vision for peace. Watch here or below.

We also presented Yousafzai with questions from students and she answered them. Check that out here.















Katelyn Polantz contributed to this report.

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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

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