GOP bends, but still no break in im­passe

Repub­li­cans yield on ben­e­fits point; dead­line is mid­night Mon­day.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Jonathan Weis­man and John M. Broder

WASHINGTON — Ne­go­ti­a­tions on a last-ditch agree­ment to head off large tax in­creases and sweep­ing spend­ing cuts in the new year ap­peared to re­sume Sun­day af­ter­noon af­ter Repub­li­can sen­a­tors with­drew their de­mand that a deal must in­clude a new way of cal­cu­lat­ing in­fla­tion that would lower pay­ments to ben­e­fi­cia­ries pro­grams like So­cial Se­cu­rity and slow their growth.

Se­nate Repub­li­cans emerged from a closed-door meet­ing to say they agreed with Democrats that the re­quest — which had tem­po­rar­ily brought talks to a stand­still — was not ap­pro­pri­ate for a quick deal to avert the tax in­creases and spend­ing cuts start­ing Jan. 1.

To hold the line against rais­ing taxes on high­in­come house­holds while fight­ing for cuts to So­cial Se­cu­rity was “not a win­ning hand,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said.

The con­ces­sion could be a break­through, but Se­nate Repub­li­cans were still balk­ing at an agree­ment Sun­day, say­ing that Democrats want to raise taxes just to in­crease spend­ing, not to cut the deficit.

That con­cern seems to cen­ter on a Demo­cratic pro­posal to tem­po­rar­ily sus­pend across-the-board spend­ing cuts to mil­i­tary and domestic pro­grams as talks re­sume on a larger deficit deal.

The de­mand for the new way of cal­cu­lat­ing in­fla­tion, known as “chained CPI,” is­sued at 7:10 p.m. Satur­day, had stopped talks cold. Sen. Mitch McCon­nell, RKy. and the Repub­li­can Se­nate leader, went to the Se­nate floor a lit­tle af­ter 2 p.m. Sun­day to say that Repub­li­cans had made their last of­fer and had yet

The top lead­ers in both par­ties on the House and Se­nate Agri­cul­ture com­mit­tees have agreed to a oneyear ex­ten­sion of the 2008 farm bill that ex­pired in Oc­to­ber, a move that could head off a pos­si­ble dou­bling of milk prices next month.

In ad­di­tion to the one-year ex­ten­sion that has the back­ing of the com­mit­tees, the House GOP is also con­sid­er­ing two other ex­ten­sion bills — a one-month ex­ten­sion and an even smaller bill that would sim­ply ex­tend dairy pol­icy that ex­pires Jan. 1.

Ex­pi­ra­tion of those dairy pro­grams could mean higher prices at the gro­cery store within a few weeks. Agri­cul­ture Sec­re­tary Tom Vil­sack said Amer­i­cans face the prospect of paying $7 for a gal­lon of milk if the cur­rent dairy pro­gram lapsed and the government re­turned to a 1948 for­mula for cal­cu­lat­ing milk price sup­ports. to re­ceive a re­ply.

“I’m con­cerned about the lack of ur­gency. I think we all know we’re run­ning out of time,” McCon­nell said.

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev. and the ma­jor­ity leader, re­sponded that “at this stage, we’re not able to make a counter of­fer.”

He said that McCon­nell had ne­go­ti­ated in good faith but that “we’re apart on some pretty big is­sues.”

The pes­simistic turn came as the House and Se­nate re­turned to the Capi­tol for a rare Sun­day ses­sion. Reid and McCon­nell had hoped to have a blue­print to present to their rank and file by midafter­noon.

McCon­nell said he had made an emer­gency call to Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den to get the talks started again. The two spoke twice, and the White House dis­patched the pres­i­dent’s chief leg­isla­tive ne­go­tia­tor, Rob Nabors, to the Capi­tol to meet with Se­nate Democrats.

Talks foundered af­ter Repub­li­cans dug in in an ef­fort to get the largest deficit re­duc­tion deal they could get in the time re­main­ing, ac­cord­ing to numer­ous Repub­li­can and Demo­cratic of­fi­cials fa­mil­iar with ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Repub­li­cans told Democrats that they were will­ing to put off sched­uled cuts in pay­ments to health care providers who treat Medi­care pa­tients, but that they wanted spend­ing cuts else­where.

But it was the in­fla­tion cal­cu­la­tion that forced Democrats away from the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble.

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama has said that in a “grand bargain” on deficit re­duc­tion, he would go along with the change, which would slow the growth of pro­grams whose out­lays rise with con­sumer prices and would raise more rev­enue by push­ing peo­ple into higher tax brack­ets.

Reid made clear that Democrats did not in­tend to in­clude So­cial Se­cu­rity in any stop­gap package. Do­ing so would make it hard for him to round up votes from his own party, and he has re­sisted touch­ing So­cial Se­cu­rity.

“We’re not go­ing to have any So­cial Se­cu­rity cuts,” Reid said on the floor.

The break­down came af­ter the pres­i­dent ap­peared on the NBC pro­gram “Meet the Press” on Sun­day and im­plored Congress to act.

“We have been talk­ing to the Repub­li­cans ever since the elec­tion was over,” Obama said in the in­ter­view, which was taped Satur­day. “They have had trou­ble say­ing yes to a num­ber of re­peated of­fers. Yes­ter­day I had an­other meet­ing with the lead­er­ship, and I sug­gested to them if

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell are still at odds.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.