- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 12, 2013

As the government shutdown entered its 12th day, the best lawmakers on Capitol Hill could say on Saturday is that they’ve started talking — again.

Negotiations between President Obama and House Republicans have collapsed, but now Senate Republican leaders reached out and asked to talk to Senate Democrats. Those involved said that, at least, should be encouraging to nervous financial markets eying a Thursday deadline for raising the debt ceiling.

“I hope that our talking gives some solace to the American people,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, said, pointing to his morning meeting with his Republican counterpart Sen. Mitch McConnell. “This should be seen as something very positive.”

But he had no progress to report in the talks, and the hurdles remain huge.

Mr. Reid has rejected every request Republicans have made, including most recently a proposal circulated by Sen. Susan Collins, Maine Republican, that would have repealed a despised Obamacare tax and given the White House more flexibility to manage the sequesters, in return for opening up the government and passing a debt increase.

Mr. Reid said the government must be opened and the debt increased without any conditions.

But Republicans said they cannot accept a debt increase with no strings, and they led a filibuster of Mr. Reid’s plan, which would have let Mr. Obama add more debt for 15 months without any controls. The GOP said that would have amounted to $1.1 trillion.

“After watching President Obama add over six trillion dollars to our debt since taking office, I cannot support a clean debt limit increase,” said Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican.

The government only has enough wiggle room to last through Thursday before it will be unable to avoid its $16.7 trillion debt limit, and will have to stop borrowing. At that point, it can only pay out as much as it is taking in each day in taxes, which means an average of about 20 percent in spending cuts.

That is on top of the partial government shutdown, which began Oct. 1 when Congress and Mr. Obama weren’t able to agree on how to fund the government in fiscal year 2014.

House Republicans and the White House had both said they were making progress over the previous two days, saying that they had cleared the air and that the GOP was working to see if it could find an offer Mr. Obama could accept.

But by Saturday morning Republicans were accusing the White House of negotiating in bad faith, and Mr. Reid declared the White House talks dead.

“That’s over with. It’s done. They’re not talking anymore,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said as he opened his chamber.

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