October 16, 2013

Senate leader announces bipartisan budget deal

Agreement averts a threatened Treasury default and will reopen the government after a partial, 16-day shutdown.

By Alan Fram And Donna Cassata
The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., walks to the Senate floor after agreeing to the framework of a deal to avoid default and reopen the government on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013 in Washington.

The Associated Press

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Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is followed by reporters as he walks to a Senate GOP meeting on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013 in Washington.

The Associated Press

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Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, a tea party favorite, said he was not worried about the prospect of a U.S. default.

“We are going to service our debt,” he told CNN. “But I am concerned about all the rhetoric around this ....I’m concerned that it will scare the markets.”

Aides to Reid and McConnell said the two men had resumed talks, including a Tuesday night conversation, and were hopeful about striking an agreement that could pass both houses.

It was expected to mirror a deal the leaders had neared Monday. That agreement was described as extending the debt limit through Feb. 7, immediately reopening the government fully and keeping agencies running until Jan. 15 — leaving lawmakers clashing over the same disputes in the near future.

It also set a mid-December deadline for bipartisan budget negotiators to report on efforts to reach compromise on longer-term issues like spending cuts. And it likely would require the Obama administration to certify that it can verify the income of people who qualify for federal subsidies for medical insurance under the 2010 health care law.

But that emerging Senate pact was put on hold Tuesday, an extraordinary day that highlighted how unruly rank-and-file House Republicans can be, even when the stakes are high. Facing solid Democratic opposition, Boehner tried in vain to write legislation that would satisfy GOP lawmakers, especially conservatives.

Boehner crafted two versions of the bill, but neither made it to a House vote because both faced certain defeat. Working against him was word during the day from the influential group Heritage Action for America that his legislation was not conservative enough — a worrisome threat for many GOP lawmakers whose biggest electoral fears are of primary challenges from the right.

The last of Boehner’s two bills had the same dates as the emerging Senate plan on the debt limit and shutdown.

But it also blocked federal payments for the president, members of Congress and other officials to help pay for their health care coverage. And it prevented the Obama administration from shifting funds among different accounts — as past Treasury secretaries have done — to let the government keep paying bills briefly after the federal debt limit has been reached.

Boehner’s inability to produce a bill that could pass his own chamber likely means he will have to let the House vote on a Senate compromise, even if that means it would pass with strong Democratic and weak GOP support. House Republican leaders have tried to avoid that scenario for fear that it would threaten their leadership, and some Republicans worried openly about that.

“Of all the damage to be done politically here, one of the greatest concerns I have is that somehow John Boehner gets compromised,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a former House member and a Boehner supporter.

With the default clock ticking ever louder, it was possible the House might vote first on a plan produced by Senate leaders. For procedural reasons, that could speed the measure’s trip through Congress by removing some parliamentary barriers Senate opponents might erect.

The strains of the confrontation were showing among GOP lawmakers.

 

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Additional Photos

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This Oct. 15, 2013, photo, shows a view of the U.S. Capitol building at dusk in Washington. Even if Congress reaches a last-minute or deadline-busting deal to avert a federal default and fully reopen the government, elected officials are likely to return to their grinding brand of brinkmanship, perhaps repeatedly. House-Senate talks are barely touching the underlying causes of debt-and-spending stalemates that pushed the country close to economic crises in 2011, last December and again this month.

The Associated Press

  


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