Congress will open the partially shuttered government and increase its borrowing limit on at least a short-term basis next week before the debt ceiling is reached Oct. 17, Senator Bob Corker said.
“Things are beginning to break,” Corker, a Tennessee Republican, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend. “I’d be surprised if it goes all the way to the 17th,” he said. “Sometime midweek this will all be resolved, if not sooner.”
House Republicans aligned with the Tea Party have lost their fight with the president, and Congress soon will open the government and raise the debt ceiling on a short-term basis, Representative Peter King, a New York Republican who opposed the shutdown from the start, said in a separate interview on the same program this weekend.
A potential spending resolution without changes in government policy will “pass overwhelmingly,” King said. House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, “has the leverage he needs, and I think it’s going to come to the House floor, no matter what.”
If Boehner doesn’t bring a measure to the floor, King said, he would support a discharge petition, in which a majority of the House can force the chamber to vote on a bill. Eighteen Republicans would have to join all 200 Democrats to compel the House to vote on opening the government, partially shuttered since Oct. 1, without conditions.
“If we have to do a discharge petition, ultimately, we will, but this is going to come,” King said.
Corker said he wanted a longer-term bill to fund the government that keeps spending at the lower levels brought on by the sequestration that automatically cut Defense Department and other discretionary parts of the budget.
“Sequester is not a great way of controlling spending, but it’s better than nothing else, and so we’ve been able to lock in some gains on spending, and hopefully we will keep those in place on that,” he said.
Congressional Republicans and the president plan to discuss a long-term budget deal. Obama has offered to cut spending on entitlements such as Social Security in exchange for higher revenues. Corker said Obama’s proposals don’t go far enough to justify asking Republicans to accept them.
“If you have transformative changes in these programs, hen maybe there’s a way to talk,” Corker said. “That’s not something the White House is willing to talk about. They’re willing to do some chip-shot kinds of reforms at it relates to entitlements.”
Administration proposals such as using a lower measure of inflation to adjust Social Security benefits were among the chip shots, he said, even as he applauded that the president “showed some leg on some entitlement reforms.”
Repealing or delaying the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 wasn’t going to happen, and never should have been brought in the current talks in the first place, he said.
“It was never a strategy that was sensible,” Corker said. “If you’re a constitutionalist, if you’re somebody who understands how our democracy works, it’s hard to pass a law when you have the majority in one body, and that’s what it would have taken. So this was a box canyon.”
Republicans will have no success defunding or delaying Obama’s health-care law for the next three years, King said. The law intended to extend health-care coverage to millions of uninsured Americans is “going to be a reality until we have another presidential election,” he said.
King said there could be modifications to the health-care law, such as repealing a tax on medical devices that some Democrats also oppose. He said an effort by some Republicans to oppose any changes “goes against the country.” Instead, he said, “if we can eliminate some of the parts of it that don’t work or could work better, let’s do it.”
With a short-term spending bill and debt-ceiling extension behind them, King said, members of Congress and Obama should be able to negotiate a longer-term budget deal. Such an agreement would have to include reduced spending on entitlement programs such as Social Security, as well as higher revenue.
“We can certainly make some concessions,” King said. “Ronald Reagan actually agreed to outright tax increases any number of times.”
If Republicans agree to higher revenue, he said, Obama can bring Democrats with him to support changes to entitlements.
“The president sees the opportunity,” King said. “His election is behind him now. He’s going for a legacy.”
One reason why an agreement can be reached is that the anti-tax Tea Party Republicans, led by Texas Senator Ted Cruz, have been discredited by the government shutdown, King said.
“The strategy of the Tea Party, of the Cruz Republicans, Ted Cruz Republicans, worked so badly,” King said.
An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll taken Oct. 7-9 showed congressional Republicans holding a public approval rating of 24 percent, the lowest in the poll’s history, with 47 percent saying they preferred a Congress controlled by Democrats.
“We can’t allow 30 or 40 people to hijack the Republican Party,” King said. “We’ve got to call them on it. We can’t allow a small minority of a party to hijack it and, again, cause catastrophic problems, not just for our party -- that’s our problem -- but for the country. It’s 800,000 people out of work because of 30 or 40 people.”
King has said he was considering seeking the Republican nomination for president in 2016, and is taking advantage of opportunities to accept speaking engagements in New Hampshire, site of the first primary election. “If I pick up good vibes, I’ll take it from there,” he said.
His willingness to take on the Tea Party over the government shutdown sets him aside from other Republicans, King said. “People want leadership,” he said. “I took a chance when Ted Cruz was the darling of the Republicans. It was only two weeks ago, but he was the darling of Republicans. I was the only guy taking him on nationwide.”
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