WASHINGTON — Republicans will avoid shutting down the government in the fall by negotiating with Democrats, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday — winning chuckles from Democrats who began seeking such talks in June.
The chortles came because Republicans have so far spurned Democratic invitations to negotiate. As recently as Friday, McConnell said Republicans would not begin talking about funding the government until Congress gets back from recess in September, when Congress will be in session for only a dozen days before money runs out at the end of the month.
With a reminder that McConnell pledged last fall that there would be no more government shutdowns, he was asked at his regular Capitol Hill news conference how he would avoid such a turn of events.
“Through negotiation,” McConnell answered. “We have divided government. Different parties control the Congress than control the White House, and at some point, we’ll negotiate the way forward.”
Told of McConnell’s response minutes later at his own press availability, Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) responded with a broad, “Ohhh, that’s great.”
But he said no one on the Democratic side of those potential talks has been approached by Republican leaders.
“I checked with the White House today — not a word. I checked with myself today — not a word,” Reid added amid laughter from his fellow party leaders.
“I don’t understand when this negotiation is going to start,” he said. “We’re ready. We’ve been ready, and we’re going to continue beating the drum. Just because we’re out during these next few weeks doing our work at home doesn’t mean we can’t negotiate. All of us, all this leadership team, the White House — we’re all ready to start negotiating any time they want.”
That still appears likely to be delayed until Sept. 8 at the earliest, when Congress returns from its August recess and will also have to consider long-term highway spending, the debt limit, expiring tax provisions and the Iran nuclear deal.
Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.