Republicans Say Dems 'Moved the Goalpost' in Rejecting Bipartisan Deal

By Susan Jones | October 14, 2013 | 7:03 AM EDT

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) (AP File Photo)

( - Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) says he's disappointed that a plan negotiated by six Republicans and six Democrats was "squashed" by Democrat leaders on Saturday, just as the 12 were ready to announce it.

He said Democrats "moved the goalpost in light of the polling data."

Speaking on CBS's "Face the Nation" Sunday, McCain said, "We were ready to go to the press gallery, OK? The Democrat leadership said no.

He joked that "maybe we need to get Joe Biden out of the witness protection program because he has good relationships with (the Democratic leadership)."

Biden has not taken part in negotiations to fund the government or raise the debt limit; Even President Obama's participation has been brief and limited.

McCain told CBS's "Face the Nation" tha President Obama should be "engaged" in the ongoing negotiations: "And the Democrats, they better understand something -- what goes around comes around. And if they try to humiliate Republicans -- things change in American politics, and I know what it's like to be in the majority and the minority, and it won't be forgotten. Now's the time to be magnanimous and sit down and get this thing done."

The so-called "Collins plan," named for Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and involving a number of female lawmakers, reportedly would fund the government for six months and increase the federal debt limit through January.  It would also delay the Obamacare tax on medical devices and require income verification for Obamacare enrollees who want subsidies to purchase insurance on the health care exchanges. Collins said she's also calling for "a long-overdue budget conference."

Collins told CNN's "State of the Union with Candy Crowley" that she was "very surprised" that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid rejected the bipartisan plan dubbed "Collins-plus."

"I don't think it was very constructive," Collins said. "But the fact is, we have a responsibility to govern and we're continuing to talk. And I'm still hopeful that at least we sparked a dialogue that did not exist before we put out a plan. And I think that I've made a real contribution that way and that elements of the plan that Senator Murkowski and Senator Ayotte and I have put forth will end up in the final compromise."

Asked why Reid rejected the plan, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), one of the 12 senators who backed it, said, "I think what Senator Reid meant is that he wasn't going to accept every little detail of it, but I think he knows that there are some positive things in that plan that are very good." She noted that "a lot of women" are "leading the way" when it comes to bipartisan negotiations.

One of those women, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), told CBS's "Face the Nation" that she's "tired of the politics on both sides."

"It's time to get out of our trenches and resolve this, and we need presidential leadership to resolve this. I can understand the American people are tired of this. And again, I think the zero-sum politics is not good for anyone. It's not good for the American people. So I hope that this bipartisan agreement can be resurrected, we can get this resolved, we can get the government open, and obviously, also deal with the debt ceiling issue while talking about our underlying fiscal challenges. We still have $17 trillion in debt."

Collins said President Obama waited too long to bring congressional leaders to the White House for talks. "And that's why many of us have tried to step into the breach and put together a plan and offer it to the leaders as a starting point because real harm is being done. As the shutdown goes on, the consequences go far beyond the unfortunate furlough of thousands of federal workers. It affects the private sector, it affects our economy, it affects America's place in the world."

Collins also said the bipartisan plan is gaining interest beyond the 12 lawmakers who put it together: "We had 12 people meet (Saturday), but just last night I had two more Democrats and a Republican contact me to offer suggestions and say that they wanted to be part of our group. So I think that's very positive. We're going to keep working, offering our suggestions to the leadership on both sides of the aisle in an attempt to be constructive and bring this impasse to an end. Surely, we owe that to the American people."

McCain told CBS that the stumbling block for Republicans in any deal is sequestration: "That's the key element," he said. "And I'm very worried about the devastation to our military and our defense. But at the same time, we do have to rein in spending. That's a major sticking point here."

McCain said he supposes it's possible for Congress to drop lower in the polls: "We're down to blood relatives and paid staffers now," he joked. "But we've got to turn this around, and the Democrats had better help us rather than do what they've done -- turn down two good proposals that they were about to agree to, and then of course this proposal that they just scuttled yesterday."