Renewed negotiations on raising the US debt ceiling caused Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tonight to postpone a scheduled vote on his plan to avoid a threatened government default.
"There are negotiations going on at the White House now," Reid said on the Senate floor, and those involved in the talks wanted more time before a vote was held on whether the Senate moved ahead with his measure.
A planned 1 am vote was pushed forward 12 hours, to 1 pm. Reid said the Senate would convene at noon today.
"There are many elements to be finalised and there is still a distance to go before any arrangement can be completed," Reid said of the talks involving Obama and congressional leaders.
Article continues below
Reid's plan, which the House symbolically rejected earlier yesterday, would lift the $14.3 trillion debt limit by $2.4 trillion.
Earlier in the day, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell had said a deal can be reached in the "near future" to raise the US debt limit, while Reid said negotiators aren't closer to agreement.
"The answer is no," said Reid, a Nevada Democrat, after he and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, met with President Barack Obama at the White House. McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, and House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, had separate phone conversations with Obama.
"We are now fully engaged, the speaker and I, with the one person in America out of 307 million people who can sign a bill into law," McConnell said at a news conference with Boehner after the Senate and House had rejected each other's plans and three days before a threatened US default. Pelosi said she and Reid talked with Obama about "what our priorities are."
Earlier, Senator Kent Conrad said senators of both parties drafted alternative plans for raising the limit fashioned by bipartisan groups of senators.
McConnell said he was "confident and optimistic that we're going to get an agreement in the very near future and resolve this crisis in the best interests of the American people."
The president "needs to indicate what he will sign," he said. "We're in discussions now." McConnell said he spoke with Obama by telephone today, while a Republican aide said Boehner talked with the president by telephone last night. Boehner of Ohio also voiced confidence an agreement could be reached.
The Treasury Department has said the US will breach its borrowing limit and run out of options for avoiding default if the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling isn't raised by August 2.
Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said a few bipartisan groups of senators have drafted three alternative plans to supplement a proposal offered by Reid. The Republican-run House yesterday defeated Reid's plan.
The alternative plans include possible new revenue as part of their formula for cutting the federal deficit, according to Conrad. Republican leaders have said from the start of negotiations that a net increase in tax revenue is unacceptable.
"All three involve the possibility of revenue," Conrad said. McConnell wasn't among the Republicans involved in the alternative bipartisan plans, according to Conrad.
McConnell spoke multiple times with Vice-President Joe Biden as part of the search for a deal, said John Ashbrook, a spokesman for McConnell.
The House's rejection of Reid's plan to raise the US debt ceiling was symbolic.
"We're going to get a result," McConnell told a news conference after the House rejected the Senate's plan.
"We're dealing with reasonable, responsible people who want this crisis to end as quickly as possible," Boehner said at the news conference, "and I'm confident we will."