GOP senators pessimistic on shutdown, debt deal

(USA TODAY - WASHINGTON) A deal to end the government shutdown and raise the debt limit by Oct. 17 to avoid default appears unlikely, two Republican senators said Sunday.

Senators are seeking to craft an agreement after the House of Representatives failed to do so. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said on ABC's This Week that a Democratic proposal to increase spending beyond limits set by automatic budget cuts — known as sequestration -- cannot be supported by Republicans.

He doesn't anticipate a deal by the Oct. 17 deadline.

"I don't see one," Graham said. "If you break spending caps you're not going to get any Republicans in the Senate."

However, by Sunday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid offered some hope for a compromise. Reid, D-Nev., opened Sunday's session of the Senate by saying he was "confident" that talks he's been having with Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the top Republican in the Senate, can lead to an end of the shutdown and an increase in the nation's debt limit.

Many in the Capitol are looking to the talks between Reid and McConnell as the last, best hope for a deal after the House abandoned talks Saturday morning. The two met Saturday, and Reid said they will continue talking throughout the day Sunday to seek a resolution.

"Americans want Congress to do its job. … That's all they're asking us to do," Reid said. "I'm confident and hopeful that will be accomplished."

But Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., agreed with Graham, saying the Democratic proposal to increase beyond sequestration limits is "a real big step in the wrong direction."

"Now they want a spending bill that increases spending and dramatically will increase the debt," Paul said on CNN's State of the Union. "It's a non-starter."

Some top Democrats were just as pessimistic about a deal.

David Plouffe, a former senior adviser to President Obama, said the nation is dangerously close to default. "I think the notion that somehow this is going to be easily solved this week is completely false," Plouffe said on This Week.

Plouffe put the odds of a deal by Thursday at "no better than 50/50. And so I think the country needs to prepare that this could go on for a while."

It wasn't all doom and gloom on the Sunday talk shows. Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said a compromise was possible.

Collins, whose proposal to end the standoff was rejected Saturday by Reid, said on CNN that talks continue between Republican and Democrats.

"We're continuing to talk," Collins said. "And I'm still hopeful that at least we sparked a dialogue that did not exist before we put out a plan."

Klobuchar, also appearing on CNN, said the Collins' plan has jump-started negotiations.

"I see this as a positive framework going forward," Klobuchar said. "And we need that right now."

Collins' plan would extend the debt ceiling to January and reopen the government through March, as well as delay an unpopular tax on medical devices under the new health care law.

Coming somewhere in between the dire and dream of a deal was Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. Appearing on CBS' Face the Nation, McCain said he was encouraged that negotiations continued. But he warned Democrats, who he suggested hold the upper hand, not to "humiliate" Republicans.

"We should be sitting down," McCain said. "And the president should be engaged. And the Democrats, they better understand something. What goes around comes around. And if they try to humiliate Republicans, things change in American politics. And I know what it's like to be in the majority and in the minority. And it won't be forgotten. Now's the time to be magnanimous and sit down and get this thing done."


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