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No Deal On Tuesday Leads To Day 16 Of Shutdown On Wednesday


It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning.

The fate of a deal for the United States to pay its bills on time now hangs in the U.S. Senate. The Treasury warns that by tomorrow, it cannot guarantee the ability to meet the nation's financial obligations unless Congress raises the debt ceiling.

Last night, the Republican and Democratic Senate leaders said they were working on a deal to avoid that disaster, and also reopen the government. The prospect of default by the United States has already prompted a warning that the nation's credit rating could be downgraded. The Senate effort to avoid that came after House Republicans tried one more time to extract extra concessions for raising the debt ceiling, but could not agree among themselves.

NPR's David Welna reports.

DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: As he's done almost daily during the government shutdown, Chaplain Barry Black opened yesterday's Senate session by asking the almighty to set lawmakers straight.


WELNA: And there were signs Congress would indeed finally act. Majority Leader Harry Reid reported that he and Republican leader Mitch McConnell had made progress.


WELNA: Meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner met for nearly two hours with his rambunctious Republican caucus. His aim was to persuade members to get behind a new plan of his own to reopen the government and keep the Treasury whole for a few more months. It was clear, though, that when Boehner emerged from that meeting, he had failed to make the sale.


WELNA: In order to win over conservatives, Boehner had loaded up his proposal with other provisions that Democrats sharply oppose. Majority Leader Reid returned to the Senate floor to say he'd been blindsided by Boehner, and that the speaker's plan was, in Reid's words, nothing more than a blatant attack on bipartisanship.


WELNA: Boehner's proposal, Reid added, could not and would not pass the Senate. Arizona Republican John McCain was one of the few to come to Boehner's defense.


WELNA: But the action had shifted back to the House. Bipartisan talks in the Senate screeched to a halt, while Boehner tweaked his plan to make it more attractive to conservatives, with less than a day and a half to go until Treasury's deadline. That had Delaware Senate Democrat Chris Coons extremely worried.

SENATOR CHRIS COONS: Do the math. We're in very dangerous territory. I think this is really reckless.

WELNA: After meeting at the White House with President Obama, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi warned that she and her fellow Democrats had no intention of voting for Boehner's plan.

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: If they go on the path they're on, they'll need 100 percent Republican votes.

WELNA: But many conservative House Republicans were balking, as well, at what Boehner proposed, including Florida freshman Ted Yoho.

REPRESENTATIVE TED YOHO: I can't support this bill, because there's no meat in it. I mean, it's not going anywhere.

WELNA: Still, House leaders announced the Rules Committee would be meeting late in the afternoon to prepare a floor vote later in the evening on Boehner's plan. Then Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions of Texas announced none of that would happen.

REPRESENTATIVE PETE SESSIONS: There will be no action, no votes, and the rules committee will not be in tonight.

WELNA: The Boehner plan was dead, and Fitch Ratings, meanwhile, announced it was considering downgrading the AAA rating for U.S. debt. Xavier Becerra, the number-three House Democrat, told CNN whatever happened next was all up to Speaker Boehner.


WELNA: That bill could be the bipartisan deal worked out in the Senate. But with the Senate's slow-moving procedures, even if Boehner were willing to take it up, there's little chance of it being enacted by tonight's midnight deadline.

David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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