WASHINGTON — Lawmakers from Nebraska and Iowa reported few signs of progress Saturday as the budget showdowns in the nation's capital continued.
Shortly after meeting with his fellow Republicans, Rep. Lee Terry of Omaha said House GOP leaders had just confirmed to members that the White House rejected their latest offer for reopening the government.
That proposal was aimed at hitting the snooze button on the crisis for six weeks, at least, and jump-starting talks over entitlement programs and taxes.
“He rejected the surrender,” Terry said of President Barack Obama. “I don't know how you deal with that. Where do you go from there?”
Lawmakers are trying to find a way to end the partial government shutdown and to raise the debt ceiling, which the country is set to hit Thursday.
A measure to extend the debt ceiling through the end of 2014 without any strings attached failed to advance Saturday in the Senate on a party line vote of 53-45. Democrats needed 60 votes to break a GOP filibuster.
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, voted for the proposal, which Democrats said was the responsible way forward.
Taking to the Senate floor after the vote, Harkin criticized Republicans for refusing to even take up the legislation and suggested the financial markets will respond poorly to their refusal.
“It begs credulity,” Harkin said. “I am incredulous at this.”
Sens. Deb Fischer and Mike Johanns, both of Nebraska, and Chuck Grassley of Iowa joined their fellow Republicans in blocking the legislation.
“Sen. Reid's proposal to give this administration a blank check to increase our debt, with no limits and no strings attached beyond the 2014 elections, is nearly laughable and certainly irresponsible,” Johanns said in a statement.
“I believe it is important to pay our debts and also important to ensure we don't pass mountains of debt on to our children.”
Johanns later added that “it's important that discussions continue'' to resolve the dispute.
Some lawmakers saw promise in the news that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., had at least started direct talks on a way to resolve the situation.
“As long as Reid and McConnell are talking, there's some hope,” Grassley said.