Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has a "new" offer for House Republicans: Fund the government, and then we can negotiate.
The Nevada Democrat sent House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, a letter Wednesday pledging to put everything on the table during budget talks, including tax reform and health care. But he won't name conferees unless the House gives the Senate a "clean" resolution to temporarily fund government at current levels.
"He doesn't even have to vote for it," Reid said shortly after the two leaders spoke on the phone. "He can vote against it."
But Boehner immediately shrugged off Reid's offer.
"Offering to negotiate only after Democrats get everything they want is not much of an offer," Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said.
Reid's latest attempt at compromise is more or less a rehash of what Democrats have wanted for months, and that is for the House to pass a budget to take to a conference committee. The only difference is Republicans, at the zero hour before the partial government shutdown took effect, instead called for a joint committee of the two houses to negotiate a deal ahead of any legislation to fund government was passed.
Democrats, however, have repeatedly turned it down.
"When you open the government, we'll open negotiations," said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill.
Reid also said he won't take up the piecemeal funding bills that the House has tried to pass, mostly to no avail, even if it includes funding for the National Institutes of Health. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Republicans have singled out that agency because it provides services for child cancer patients.
But he did say that the debt ceiling could become part of larger budget negotiations, perhaps opening the door for compromise on an issue President Obama has said is not up for debate.
"We find ourselves at loggerheads," Reid wrote. "There needs to be a path open to reopen our government and protect our economy. This is a communication to offering a sensible, reasonable compromise."
Reid and Boehner are scheduled to join House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for a meeting with Obama at the White House later Wednesday.