Talking seen as ‘breakthrough’ on Capitol Hill

Posted at 1:49 PM, Oct 13, 2013
and last updated 2013-10-13 13:49:44-04

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The bar seems to be set pretty low on Capitol Hill, as one top lawmaker says just having Democrats and Republicans talking is a “breakthrough” – even though the two sides don’t have a deal in the midst of a multifaceted budget crisis.

Talks both on ending the government shutdown and on avoiding the debt ceiling have shifted to the Senate, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, along with other top senators, began discussions on Saturday.

“It’s a breakthrough. Hard to imagine, but it’s a breakthrough. We’ve reached a point where House Republicans and their leadership have stepped to the sidelines. They’re not part of this at this point,” Sen. Dick Durbin, the Democratic whip, said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet The Press.”

As for getting a deal by Thursday, when the nation does hit the debt ceiling, Durbin said he thinks Congress will ultimately get the job done.

“I’m a hopeful person. I believe we can do it. I hope sensible people prevail, because at this point it’s not just a shutdown and all of the damage it’s caused, but if we default on our debt it will have a dramatic impact on the savings account, on the retirement account of average Americans,” Durbin said.

On the other side of the aisle, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said he too thinks Congress will find a way out of the crisis before Thursday.

“We will have decided as a Congress that we need to avoid going over the debt limit, and we’ll figure it out. And it will probably be a relatively short-term solution,” Portman said.

When it comes to ultimate blame for the deadlock, Portman said both sides are to blame and have been for a long time.

“The greatest act of bipartisanship over the last couple decades has been Republicans and Democrats alike overpromising and overspending,” Portman said.