partlycloudy
Saturday May 30th, 2015 4:31PM

Reid, McConnell optimistic on debt-shutdown deal

By The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) -- After weeks of stubborn gridlock, the Senate's top two leaders raced to reach an agreement Monday that could head off a first-ever U.S. Treasury default threatened for midweek and end the 14-day partial government shutdown.

The stock market turned positive on bullish predictions from the two longtime antagonists at the center of the talks, Majority Leader Harry Reid for the Democrats Republican leader Mitch McConnell for the GOP.

The two men met twice before midafternoon, their sessions sandwiched around a White House announcement that President Barack Obama was calling them and the party leaders in the House for the second time in less than a week to discuss the economy-threatening crises. The meeting was subsequently postponed to give the two lawmakers more time to work.

Visiting a charity not far from the White House, Obama blended optimism with a slap at Republicans.

"My hope is that a spirit of cooperation will move us forward over the next few hours," he said. And yet, he added, "If we don't start making some real progress both in the House and the Senate, and if Republicans aren't willing to set aside some of their partisan concerns in order to do what's right for the country, we stand a good chance of defaulting."

Any legislation would require passage in the Senate and also in the House, where a large faction of tea party-aligned lawmakers precipitated the shutdown two weeks ago despite the efforts of both McConnell and Republican Speaker John Boehner. In the days since, polls show a marked deterioration in public support for the GOP.

McConnell also met with Boehner during the afternoon.

Officials said Reid and McConnell were discussing legislation to raise the government's $16.7 trillion debt limit until spring, staving off the possible default. It was not clear if that would permit Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew to employ a series of steps that could add additional months to the extension, as administrations in both parties have done in recent years.

In addition to approving legislation to fund the government until late this year, Reid and McConnell considered appointment of House and Senate negotiators to seek a deficit-reduction agreement that could ease or eliminate a new round of automatic federal spending cuts scheduled to begin in January. While the current round of these cuts fell on both domestic programs and the military, the upcoming reductions would hit primarily the Pentagon.

Also under discussion, officials said, was a possible tightening in income verification requirements for individuals who qualify for subsidies under the health care law known as Obamacare.

Separately, Democrats were resisting a Republican-backed proposal to suspend a medical device tax that was enacted as part of the health care law. The tax is widely unpopular among lawmakers in both parties, and the outcome of that disagreement remained unclear.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to comment on the private discussions.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has told Congress the deadline for raising the debt limit is Oct. 17.

He, the president and a wide array of economists, bankers and politicians in both parties - at home and backed by world leaders - have all warned that default could have catastrophic consequences for both the domestic and global economies.

The doubters alternatively say no default will occur or that if it does, it won't be the calamity that others claim.

But after holding center stage for much of the current impasse, there was little doubt that they had been shunted aside as Reid and McConnell worked toward an agreement.

As the Senate opened for business on Monday, Reid said he was "very optimistic we will reach an agreement this week that's reasonable in nature."

Moments later, Republican leader McConnell seconded his assessment.

"We have had an opportunity over the last couple of days to have some very constructive exchanges of views about how to move forward. Those discussions continue, and I share (the) optimism that we're going to get a result that will be acceptable to both sides," he said.

In announcing the lawmakers' meeting with Obama, the White House said the president would repeat a vow he has made consistently in recent weeks: "We will not pay a ransom for Congress reopening the government and raising the debt limit."

The prospect of a default and the possibility of a follow-on recession largely overshadowed the partial government shutdown that has furloughed 350,000 federal workers. Government research labs have been affected, veterans' services curtailed and much of the Occupational Safety and Health Organization shuttered.

With federal parks off-limits to visitors, the impact on tourism prompted several governors to petition Interior Secretary Sally Jewell successfully to permit the states to finance some reopenings.

The shutdown began on Oct. 1, at the beginning of the budget year, after the House adopted a strategy of conditioning broad federal spending legislation to a proposal to starve the three-year-old health care law of funding.

The president and Democrats refused, and the long struggle began, merging quickly with the fast-approaching deadline for a debt limit increase.

In the two weeks since, public opinion polls have charted a steady decline in Republican approval ratings, and an increase in the view that the party's lawmakers are acting out of political motivation.

The shutdown has proved problematic for the GOP in the Virginia governor's race, which is on the ballot this fall. Public opinion polls show the Democrat, Terry McAuliffe, ahead of Republican Ken Cuccinelli, who is caught between tea party supporters on the one side and the public's general unhappiness on the other, magnified by the large presence of federal workers in the state.

Democrats hope for that situation to repeat itself nationwide in a year's time, when control of both houses of Congress will be at stake.

For now, though, the fear of economic harm produced warnings from around the globe that the United States must not permit a default.

Christine Lagarde, the International Monetary Fund's managing director, spoke with concern about the disruption and uncertainty on Sunday, warning of "a risk of tipping, yet again, into recession" after the fitful recovery from 2008.
© Copyright 2015 AccessNorthGa.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
S&P 500 index has its best year since 1997
The stock market closed out a record year with more all-time highs on Tuesday, giving U.S. indexes their biggest annual gains in almost two decades.
6:56PM ( 1 year ago )
Colorado readies for 'Green Wednesday' pot sales
Police were adding extra patrols around pot shops in eight Colorado towns that plan to allow recreational sales to anyone over 21 on Jan. 1.
1:52PM ( 1 year ago )
Kerry seeks framework for Mideast peace talks
A senior State Department official says Secretary of State John Kerry will try this week to get Israel and the Palestinians to agree on a framework for negotiating a final peace agreement, yet cautions against raising expectations for Kerry's latest round of shuttle diplomacy.
1:35PM ( 1 year ago )
U.S. News
Missing Ga. bank director arrested in Brunswick
A bank director accused of losing millions of investors' dollars before vanishing last year was arrested Tuesday during a traffic stop in a city in south Georgia.
7:00PM ( 1 year ago )
Amtrak to suspend some Crescent service in Jan., Feb.
Amtrak service will shut down in parts of the Southeast for several days in January and February for rail maintenance by Norfolk Southern Railway.
9:00AM ( 1 year ago )
Lung cancer scans urged for some smokers, not all
Certain current or former heavy smokers should start getting yearly scans for lung cancer to cut their risk of death from the nation's top cancer killer, government advisers said Monday - even as they stressed that the tests aren't for everyone.
7:26AM ( 1 year ago )
Business News
Sex offender held in Hall County for failing to register
A 47-year-old man was booked into the Hall County Jail Tuesday, being held without bond for allegedly failing to register as a sex offender, his second such arrest.
6:09PM ( 1 year ago )
Pharmacy robberies may involve same suspect
Oakwood Police Tuesday afternoon released details in a pharmacy robbery they're investigating, similar to one that happened in the Hall County Tuesday morning.
5:46PM ( 1 year ago )
Victim critical following apartment fire
A 41-year-old woman was in critical but stable condition Tuesday after being rescued from an apartment fire in Forsyth County late Monday afternoon.
3:16PM ( 1 year ago )
Local/State News
Feeling US snub, Saudis strengthen ties elsewhere
Increasingly vocal in its frustration over U.S. policies in the Mideast, Saudi Arabia is strengthening ties elsewhere, seeking out an alignment that will bolster its position after it was pushed to the sidelines this year.
4:34PM ( 1 year ago )
NSA reportedly intercepts computer deliveries
A German magazine has lifted the lid on the operations of the National Security Agency's hacker unit, revealing how American spies intercepted computer deliveries, exploited hardware vulnerabilities, and even hijacked Microsoft's bug report system to spy on their targets.
12:31PM ( 1 year ago )
Rockets fired from Lebanon into Israel
Rockets from Lebanon struck northern Israel on Sunday, causing no injuries but sparking an Israeli reprisal shelling in a rare flare-up between the two countries.
12:26PM ( 1 year ago )
Politics
Federal prosecutors indict ex-US Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert on bank-related charges
CHICAGO (AP) — Federal prosecutors indict ex-US Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert on bank-related charges.
5:08PM ( 1 day ago )
Homeowners clean up in Texas; death toll climbs to 21
HOUSTON (AP) — Homeowners dragged soggy carpet to the curb and mopped up coffee-colored muck Wednesday after a barrage of storms and floods in Texas and Oklahoma left at least 21 people dead and 11 ot...
11:09PM ( 2 days ago )
US rejects nuclear disarmament document over Israel concerns
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United States on Friday blocked a global document aimed at ridding the world of nuclear weapons, saying Egypt and other states tried to "cynically manipulate" the process by...
9:33PM ( 1 week ago )
Obama again avoids calling 1915 Armenian killings 'genocide'
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama will once again stop short of calling the 1915 massacre of Armenians a genocide, prompting anger and disappointment from those who have been pushing him to ful...
1:00PM ( 1 month ago )
Ex-NFL star Hernandez convicted of murder, sentenced to life
FALL RIVER, Mass. (AP) — Former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison Wednesday for a deadly late-night shooting, sealing the d...
8:54PM ( 1 month ago )