October 20, 2013

Treasury Secretary: Budget fight ‘got close to edge’

Jacob Lew says the lesson learned from the shutdown is that ‘it can’t happen again.’

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Leaders from both parties insist a sequel to the government shutdown must be avoided although a plan to dodge it is still elusive.

“This can never happen again,” Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said.

Added Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell: “There’ll not be another government shutdown, you can count on that.”

The 16-day partial shutdown ended last week although a possible repeat is on the horizon. Lawmakers approved a budget that keeps the lights on through Jan. 15 and lets Treasury continue to pay its bills through Feb. 7.

That’s not to say there is a solution at hand, and no one is rushing forward with alternatives to a repeat of the gridlock that shuttered parts of the government and pushed the nation toward a default on its debt. The political price has been high ahead of 2014’s midterm elections, especially for Republicans.

“I think there was some ground lost from the political point of view,” said former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a potential 2016 presidential contender for the GOP.

Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi of California reiterated the public’s reaction to the partisan gamesmanship that played out over more than two weeks: “I join the American people in their disgust at what happened in terms of the shutdown of government.”

But there’s no real way forward to dodge a repeat and its chief architect, Republican Sen. Ted of Cruz, is urging one. Hundreds of thousands of government workers were sent home amid the shutdown and national parks were barricaded while politicians negotiated. The whole situation could be repeated – combined with economic consequences – early next year, perhaps with more severe consequences.

“The deal this week was a lousy deal for the American people,” Cruz said.

It’s not ideal, but no one has a tangible way to avoid it.

“We just went through an awful period for our country,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

A standoff between President Barack Obama and a group of Republicans over spending for the budget year beginning Oct. 1 and defunding the nation’s health care overhaul led to the shutdown. Lawmakers also pushed the country to the edge of economic default by threatening the Treasury Department’s authority to continue borrowing the money needed to pay the nation’s bills.

The bitter feuding ended on Wednesday, and a group of House and Senate lawmakers has until Dec. 13 to produce a spending deal to stave off another shutdown and possible default in early 2014.

“There were really no winners,” said Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va. “I mean, our country took an economic hit.”

The public won’t tolerate a repeat, said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

“I am very confident the American people will not stand for another reputation of this disaster,” he said.

Lew appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” McConnell, Warner and Graham were on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” Bush and Pelosi spoke to ABC’s “This Week.” McCain and Cruz were on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

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