Later Tuesday night, Senate leaders Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell moved to pick up the pieces of the shattered House effort, with aides to both senators expressing optimism a deal could be soon at hand. The influential conservative group Heritage Action also opposed the House proposal soon after it was announced, and conservatives close to the House leadership expressed alarm that they had shut down the government and would get nothing for it except a punitive measure restricting their own staff's healthcare, according to senior House Republican aides. "Fitch's announcement followed a day of declining optimism about efforts to resolve the crisis, as Democrats and Republicans began attacking each other again and the White House said negotiators remained" far from a deal.
The bipartisan Senate talks were put on hold Tuesday as negotiators awaited a plan from the Republican-led House. Unlike the Senate proposal, the House plan originally included a two-year repeal of a medical device tax and a provision eliminating the employer health-care contribution for members of Congress and White House officials.
Later Tuesday, House Republicans regrouped around the new version of their bill, which dropped the medical device tax provision, and officials said they would bring it the House floor tonight, but later changed their minds. "It's nothing more than a blatant attack on bipartisanship," Senate Majority Leader Reid said of the first House proposal. The new House Republican proposal would raise the debt limit through Feb7, as Senate negotiators had planned. The White House said Obama would meet with House Democratic leaders on Tuesday afternoon.
If Democratic lawmakers refuse to support either House Republican proposal,the bill would need votes from all but 15 of the 232 Republican lawmakers. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi accused Republicans of "Sabotaging a good-faith bipartisan effort coming out of the Senate." As word of the competing House proposal spread through the Capitol Tuesday morning, Senate Republicans postponed an 11 a.m. meeting of their caucus.
After the failure of the House Republican leadership to find enough support for its latest proposal to end the fiscal crisis, the Senate's Democratic and Republican leaders immediately restarted negotiations to find a bipartisan path forward, and one aide described an agreement as imminent.
The House speaker, John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio, and his leadership team failed in repeated, daylong attempts to bring their troops behind any bill that would reopen the government and extend the Treasury's debt limit on terms significantly reduced from their original push against funding for the health care law. The House setback returned the focus to the Senate, where the leadership had suspended talks after the Senate Republican leadership opted to give theHouse a chance to produce an alternative to the Senate measure taking shape. The hopes for a resolution by Thursday also appeared to rest with the senators who had begun the failed movement to tie any further government funding to the gutting of the Affordable Care Act: Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, and MikeLee, Republican of Utah.
By Tuesday afternoon, House Republican leaders were back with a new proposal to fund the government through Dec. 15, extend the debt ceiling intoFebruary and deprive not only lawmakers but all their staff members of employer assistance to buy their health care.
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