Toomey more hopeful of deal on debt ceiling after meeting in White House

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WASHINGTON -- A deal to reopen the federal government and raise the debt ceiling is moving closer, Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey said this afternoon after emerging from a White House meeting with President Barack Obama and several fellow Senate Republicans.

"I don't want to be overly optimistic that this will be resolved, but I'm more optimistic now than I have been for some time," Mr. Toomey said today, the 11th day of the government shutdown.

Lawmakers from both chambers are expected to work through the weekend on a plan that Mr. Toomey says probably won't include measures to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, as Tea Party Republicans have called for.

It could, though, stop a 2.3 percent excise tax on medical devices. Manufacturers say the tax is killing jobs and stifling innovation, but the White House has said revenue -- $30 billion over 10 years -- is needed to offset costs of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

In an apparent shift, the president today indicated he might be willing to drop the tax if he can find a way to replace that revenue, Mr. Toomey said.

The device tax came up as part of a broader discussion of several proposals gaining traction, including one by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Mr. Toomey said. Her plan would fund the government for six months and increase borrowing authority enough to pay debts through January.

"The president was certainly not dismissive of this approach," Mr. Toomey said, but it's only one of several proposals that came up in the hour-and-a-half White House discussion.

The Collins plan mirrors a proposal floated in the House by Reps. Charlie Dent, R-Allentown, and Ron Kind, D-Wis.

More substantive changes to the health reform law were not part of today's discussion, said Mr. Toomey, who appeared neither surprised nor disappointed.

"I never thought it was a good idea and I never signed on to the approach of insisting we would shut down the government if we didn't defund Obamacare," the senator said.

"As strongly opposed to Obamacare as I am, it is pretty clear to me that the president has a different point of view, and he's still the president. He was never going to sign legislation that would effectively negate what he considers to be his signature accomplishment," Mr. Toomey said.

House Republicans are working with the White House too, said Michael Steel, spokesman for Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. Mr. Steel didn't reveal any new details Friday, saying only that Mr. Boehner and the the president "agreed that we should all keep talking."

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Washington Bureau Chief Tracie Mauriello: tmauriello@post-gazette.com, 703-996-9292 or on Twitter @pgPoliTweets. First Published October 11, 2013 2:25 PM


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