Oct 14, 2013

    Senate push to end US govt impasse

    THE United States Senate was to hold a rare Sunday session as politicians grappled with how to reopen the shuttered government and avoid a potentially calamitous failure to fulfil the country's debt obligations.

    With Republicans in the House of Representatives blaming President Barack Obama for the collapse of talks on extending US borrowing authority, the Senate's Republican and Democratic leaders scrambled to piece together a bipartisan exit strategy.

    The top senators showed an intensifying desire to end the two-week government shutdown and ease the threat of default with just three working days before the US Treasury's Oct 17 deadline for raising the debt ceiling.

    Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Mr Obama's top wingman in Congress, said that he held "extremely cordial but very preliminary" talks on Saturday with top Republican Senator Mitch McConnell.

    "Nothing conclusive" emerged from the pair's first face-to-face discussion about the twin crises, Mr Reid told reporters, downplaying hopes of a quick fix.

    Mr McConnell suggested a bipartisan offer spearheaded by moderate Republican Senator Susan Collins as a workable template, but Mr Reid had rejected it.

    The measure would extend borrowing authority into next year and fund the government for six months, but it would also repeal a medical-device tax introduced under Mr Obama's health-care law.