By Russell Berman and Erik Wasson – 10/12/13 11:11 AM ET
Hopes for a deal to end the government shutdown and avert a U.S. default turned to the Senate on Saturday as House Republicans said their talks with the White House were effectively over.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told House Republicans at a morning conference meeting that there has been little progress in negotiations with the White House.
Other members said talks had now shifted from the House to the Senate.
“It’s up to the Senate Republicans,” conservative Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) said as he left the meeting. “The president rejected our deal.”
House GOP leaders had conveyed multiple offers to the White House in recent days that involved a six-week increase in the debt ceiling and a promise of negotiations to reopen the government and enact a broader budget plan.
Senior Republicans criticized a plan being circulated by centrist GOP Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) that would authorize new U.S. borrowing into January and provide government funding for six months while making modest changes to Obama’s healthcare law.
“They are trying to jam us with the Senate and we are not going to roll over and take that,” House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said after the conference meeting.
During and after the meeting, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said the House GOP needed Senate Republicans to stand strong.
“I’m disappointed that the president has rejected the offer that we put on the table,” Cantor told reporters as he left the meeting. “I know he is trying to see which Republican senator he can pick off in the Senate. I hope that the Senate Republicans stand strong so that we can speak with one voice.”
Yet while many House Republicans voiced anger and frustration at their colleagues in the Senate, there was a growing realization that the upper chamber would likely now determine whether a deal could be reached to avert an unprecedented U.S. default after Thursday.
“The Senate’s driving the bus,” said centrist Rep. Charlie Dent (Pa.), who has called for a vote on Senate legislation to reopen the government. “Absent a plan from the House, we vacated the field to the Senate.”
House Republicans leaders never brought their plan for a short-term debt ceiling increase to the floor, weeks after conservatives balked at an earlier proposal to raise the borrowing limit in exchange for an array of party priorities.
After a pair of unrelated votes on Saturday morning, House lawmakers left the Capitol with no plans to return until Monday evening.
Asked if he had reason to hope for a resolution, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) replied, “I don’t see much reason.”
The Collins proposal would set up longer-term budget talks between the House and Senate with a goal of reporting back by Jan. 15, 2014.
In exchange, Republicans are asking for minor changes to Obama’s healthcare law that would include a two-year delay to a tax on medical devices. They would also ways to verify that people who get subsidies under ObamaCare are eligible to receive them.
Democrats, however, are objecting to the plan, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) are now in talks.
There is growing pressure on Republicans to bend and agree to a deal given surveys showing their approval rating is tanking. They are also running out of time, as the Treasury Department says the debt ceiling will be reached in just six days.
Many House Republicans emerged from Saturday’s party meeting striking a defiant tone and suggesting they would not simply accept a deal from the Senate. But the climactic days of this crisis could echo the resolution of the fiscal cliff in January, when Boehner put Senate legislation on the House floor that passed with Democratic votes despite the opposition from a majority of Republicans.
“That’s something the Speaker will have to decide,” second-term Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) said. “But if the Senate trying to create a time crunch, that’s a time crunch that’s damaging to the American people.
Griffith suggested the House should reject an unfavorable agreement from the Senate, even if it resulted in a debt default that severely damaged the economy.
“We have to make a decision that’s right long-term for the United States, and what may be distasteful, unpleasant and not appropriate in the short run may be something that has to be done,” he said.
Griffith, a former majority leader of the Virginia House of Delegates, cited as an example the American Revolution.
“I will remind you that this group of renegades that decided that they wanted to break from the crown in 1776 did great damage to the economy of the colonies,” Griffith said. “They created the greatest nation and the best form of government, but they did damage to the economy in the short run.”
Republicans said that while the subject of recent polls came up in the meeting, multiple members took to the microphones to say they were not feeling political pressure to back down. In their districts, members told their colleagues, people “are not even aware of the shutdown,” Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) said.
During the meeting, conservative Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) stood up to urge Boehner to be “more strident” in his public rhetoric, to respond to Obama comparing House Republicans to “hostage-takers.” The Speaker, however, refused and said he would not echo the Democrats’ tone.
Alexander Bolton, Bernie Becker and Peter Schroeder contributed.
This story was posted at 6 a.m. and updated at 1:09 p.m.