Hopes for a deal to end debt, budget crisis stall on Capitol Hill

Paul Ryan (R-WI) (C) and fellow House Republicans are greeted by reporters as they depart a closed-door caucus meeting at the Capitol.  (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Paul Ryan (R-WI) (C) and fellow House Republicans are greeted by reporters as they depart a closed-door caucus meeting at the Capitol. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Hopes for a resolution of Washington’s fiscal crisis in the next day or two faded on Capitol Hill on Saturday, as President Barack Obama’s efforts to reach a deal with Republicans in the House of Representatives sputtered.

The focus has now shifted to Senate Republicans’ ideas for reopening the government and raising the government’s borrowing authority, which runs out on October 17.

“I guess they’re (the White House) talking to the Senate now,” a dejected House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers, a Republican, told Reuters.

“There is no deal; no negotiations going on,” House Speaker John Boehner told a meeting of House Republicans, according to Representative Richard Hudson.

The White House had expressed deep reservations with Boehner’s plan for a debt ceiling increase that would have extended only to November 22 and other demands that would have required a series of negotiations to continue under the threat of default and government shutdown.

Meanwhile, there appeared to be growing interest in a plan written by Republican Senator Susan Collins that would fund government operations for another six months at their current level and extend Treasury Department borrowing authority through January 31.

Without action by Congress, the United States could be in default by Thursday, when the Treasury warns its borrowing authority would basically be exhausted.

Many House members were heading to their home districts, having been informed that there would be no votes later on Saturday, Sunday or before Monday evening.

The complication has deflated some of the optimism about a quick agreement coming as early as this weekend.

“I was optimistic yesterday morning,” David French, the chief lobbyist for the National Retail Federation, told Reuters on Saturday. “I’m a little less optimistic today and so are folks I’ve talked to” on Capitol Hill.

Companies and trade associations have been stepping up their efforts on Capitol Hill as the debt ceiling deadline approaches.

Retailers are particularly concerned about going into a holiday season with debt ceiling jitters hanging over the economy.

Beyond that, French said: “They’re concerned about Washington. They’re concerned about the level of dysfunction. Our members do not like lurching from crisis to crisis without hope of a resolution.”

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