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December 21, 2014

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Heller sits out shutdown negotiations to attend son’s wedding

A deal to avoid default and restore the federal budget was in the works today as President Barack Obama huddled with Republicans to talk specifics – the first such meetings in the eleven days since the shutdown began.

But Nevada's rank-and-file Republican in the Senate, Dean Heller, missed out on those talks, for good reason: His oldest son, Harris is getting married today. Heller is expected to return to Washington, D.C. for a test vote on the debt ceiling Saturday.

As leadership negotiates a way to reopen the government and avoid a default, questions remain as to how long the deal will last – and how broad it will have to be to get enough members of Congress on board.

At this juncture, both Democrats and Republicans seem committed to taking steps to raise or suspend the debt limit before Oct. 17, when the country is expected to run out of room to borrow money to cover its obligations.

Republicans are offering a bill that would increase the debt limit enough to last for about six weeks – enough time, they presume, to strike a longer deal.

But Democrats are hoping to suspend the debt limit through the end of 2014, to avoid a situation in which politically treacherous campaign politics bring the U.S. to the brink of default again.

“We do not believe a six-week delay of a catastrophic default is enough to give the economy the confidence it needs to continue growing and recovering,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said. “We would have another one of these periods of bedlam here in Washington right before the most important purchasing season anytime during the year, Christmas…right when people are beginning to buy things for Christmas.”

The Senate is planning to vote Saturday on a measure that would suspend the debt limit through Dec. 31, 2014. Suspending the debt ceiling is all the measure would do – it wouldn’t outline budget cuts and it wouldn’t end the government shutdown.

House Republicans, the Associated Press reports, want to address the government shutdown, sequestration, and Social Security and Medicare spending in their shorter measure.

Such a temporary, mini-grand bargain would fly in the face of Reid’s insistence that Republicans agree to end the shutdown and raise the debt limit as a precondition of further negotiations.

But Obama indicated earlier week that he may be wiling to take a short-term hike of the debt ceiling in order to carve out time for talks with Republican leaders.

On Friday, Obama’s meeting with the Senate GOP also included the rank and file. Heller did not attend so that he could be at his son's wedding.

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