Washington (CNN) — Talks between House Speaker John Boehner and President Barack Obama over the government shutdown and looming debt limit deadline have hit a brick wall. Attention now turns to the Senate, where members are working on a separate plan to reopen the government.
The Democratic leadership of the Senate was scheduled to meet with Obama at the White House on Saturday afternoon.
The standstill between Boehner and Obama has put on hold any the possibility that the House would vote on its proposal to reopen the government this weekend. While leadership would remain in Washington to continue work, rank-and-file members have begun returning home to their districts until Monday afternoon.
The Senate is now front and center. The upper chamber defeated a procedural measure Saturday afternoon to extend the debt limit with no strings attached. While a vote had little chance of passing, the real work is being done behind the scenes.
And the heavy lifters are taking the lead.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said he and his counterpart, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell are involved in “cordial” and “preliminary” discussions.
Although there is “nothing conclusive” yet, Reid said, “I hope that our talking is some solace to the American people and the world.”
Indicating that Republicans are now more willing to negotiate, Reid said McConnell approached him to begin talks. “This hasn’t happened until now,” Reid said.
Reid also noted that a proposal by a bipartisan group of senators is no longer on the table.
The proposal, led by Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, would fund the government for six months, extend the debt limit and delay a medical device tax that is part of the Affordable Care Act.
But Democrats rejected that plan because it treats opening the government as a “concession.”
Reid continues to demand that any plan include a “clean” bill with no strings attached that raises the debt limit and reopens the government.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, said progress is being made. “I think our Republican colleagues are moving in our direction with the fact that Obamacare is not a major part of the discussion any more among most all Senate and many House Republicans,” he said.
Tennessee Republican Bob Corker told CNN that Reid and McConnell “will continue to talk over the weekend.”
“Again, it is very evident that the White House is not going to be involved in negotiations, at least at this point they are not, and that the centerpiece is Reid and McConnell. So I think all of us want to support those efforts and hopefully they bear fruit over the weekend,” Corker said.
Corker said that lawmakers continue to talk to each other and that discussions are “good.”
Republican leadership told the Republican caucus during a Saturday morning meeting that the president will not accept their proposal to raise the debt limit for six weeks.
Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, told CNN Saturday that “the President rejected our deal.”
The standstill comes after a Friday afternoon phone call between Boehner and Obama, when they decided keep talking.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Illinois, said the President is waiting for a better offer.
“It doesn’t seem like the White House is serious at all about entering negotiations with us until they see what comes out of the Senate. If they get something out of the Senate that’s weaker than our negotiated position, it obviously strengthens their position,” Kinzinger said.
The lack of a mechanism in the House proposal to immediately reopen the government — which has been partially shut down since October 1, prompting the furlough of hundreds of thousands of workers, the closing of national parks and an increase in public anger — turned off many Senators.