Reid, McConnell deal progresses, conservatives express skepticism

It appears that there is a deal in the works between Senate leaders that would temporarily raise the debt ceiling and fund the federal government while yet another “super-committee.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have been working behind the scenes since a bipartisan compromise offered by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) fell apart over the weekend. The two leaders are cautious because whatever they agree to has to pass the House of Representatives.

“We have had an opportunity over the last couple of days to have some very constructive exchanges of views about how to move forward,” said McConnell from the Senate floor on Monday. “Those discussions continue, and I share [the] optimism that we’re going to get a result that will be acceptable to both sides.”

The basis of the deal, according to various media reports, is a Continuing Resolution that funds the federal government until January 15 and extending the debt ceiling until February 7, though some outlets are reporting February 15. The sticking point for Senate Republicans is maintaining the sequester cuts and the $988 billion funding level for FY 2014.

There are also some minor changes to ObamaCare that are being considered, but Politico notes that negotiations on those provisions could fail, which would take the controversial law off the table.

The deal would also create a super-committee, similar to the one that was formed by the Budget Control Act, that would review federal spending programs in hopes to reach a “grand bargain.” The recommendations would have to be presented to Congress by mid-December.

Keep in mind that the formation of such a committee means absolutely nothing. The super-committee formed by the Budget Control Act was supposed to find $1.5 trillion in spending over a 10-year period. Members of the super-committee were unable to reach an agreement, which triggered the automatic $1.2 trillion sequester.

Senate Democrats have insisted, despite most of them supporting the Budget Control Act just two years ago, that they want to do away with the sequester. They want the government funded at $1.058 trillion, around $91 billion more than sequester-level spending. They’re calling it a “compromise” to back sequester-level spending, which couldn’t be further from the truth given that those cuts were passed by Congress with bipartisan support and signed by a Democratic president.

But the kicker is, based on what we know, the sequester spending cuts, which are just cuts to the rates of spending growth, aren’t preserved by the Reid-McConnell deal.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) hasn’t publicly indicated whether he’ll actively stand in the way of the deal. Roll Call notes that the Texas senator met with a group of House conservatives on Monday night, though the details of the discussion are unknown. But one would presume they were discussion strategy moving forward with the Senate deal in mind.

That point was echoed this morning by Robert Costa, who reported this morning that House and Senate conservatives aren’t too happy with the rumored deal. One House conservative told Costa that Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) could be in trouble with his caucus if he backs the Reid-McConnell deal.

There are also reports this morning that the House isn’t waiting around for the Senate deal to be finalized. They will apparently move forward today with their own plan today to fund the government and raise the debt ceiling, mirroring the dates of the Reid-McConnell deal. The House plan, however, will include a two-year delay of ObamaCare’s medical device tax. It also contains a provision that would require President Obama to sign-up for ObamaCare.

The latest House proposal is unlikely to gain any traction in the Senate.

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