Politics

October 18, 2013

Congress avoids default, ends shutdown

The deal prevents global economic damage, allows full federal operations to resume, reopens Acadia and averts furloughs for 2,700 state workers.

By Kevin Miller kmiller@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Wednesday that “we fought the good fight. We just didn’t win.”

AP Photo/ Evan Vucci

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It means food inspectors, veterans’ benefits staffers, researchers and home loan processors will be back on the job this week.

The deal also eased nerves in the business and financial sectors, as evidenced by a jump in the stock market Wednesday.

With roughly $30 billion on hand and fluctuating revenues, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew had warned that he would soon be unable to pay all of the nation’s debts and might have to decide whether to pay, for example, Social Security benefits or the nation’s loan obligations.

Experts predicted that the resulting default could cause stocks to plummet, trigger a downgrade in the U.S. credit rating and undermine economic recovery around the globe.

“Averting this crisis is historic,” Reid said immediately after the vote. “Let’s be honest, it is a pain inflicted on our nation for no reason and we cannot make the same mistake again.”

both parties made compromises

The agreement includes concessions from both parties.

Democrats wanted longer time frames to extend government spending and the debt ceiling, while Republicans pushed for narrower windows. The end result is that a Congress plagued by partisan gridlock and brinksmanship will be forced to debate both the budget and the debt ceiling within a matter of months.

But the largely Democrat-driven deal was viewed as a stinging loss for Republicans, who were bearing more of the public blame for the shutdown.

Republicans sought to highlight their few successes in the negotiations – such as preserving spending limits within the “sequestration” budget cuts – but also looked ahead to the next fights.

“This is far less than many of us had hoped for, frankly, but is far better than what some had sought,” McConnell said. “Now it is time for Republicans to unite behind other crucial goals.”

The Reid-McConnell agreement differs from the legislative package put forward by the bipartisan group of 14 senators led by Collins.

For instance, the eventual Senate deal contains different end dates for funding the government and extending the debt ceiling. A proposal to delay a medical device tax within the Affordable Care Act was also dropped, as was language giving federal agencies flexibility to implement the “sequestration” budget cuts.

But the proposal includes a requirement included in the Collins-led plan that the government verify the incomes of people who seek federal subsidies for health insurance through Obamacare.

Their efforts – and Collins’ role, in particular – were lauded on the Senate floor Wednesday.

“Thank you for taking the time, having the courage and putting forward the ideas that you did,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., told Collins.

some still targeting obamacare

The partial shutdown of federal government began on Oct. 1, after Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and House tea party members insisted that Congress vote to defund the Affordable Care Act as part of any agreement to keep agencies open.

In the weeks since, House Republicans have scaled back their demands while attempting to reopen individual federal programs. Buoyed by polls showing Republicans taking a political beating, Obama and the Democrats held firm in their insistence that Republicans fund all of government and not “hold hostage” the full faith and credit of the country over Obamacare.

The decision by Cruz and House Republicans earned sharp rebukes by numerous Senate Republicans, several of whom joined Collins’ effort to negotiate a bipartisan compromise as the shutdown dragged on.

Among them was Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, a young and rising Republican with strong support in conservative and tea party circles. On Wednesday, Ayotte was incredulous when a reporter mentioned that some conservatives hope to use next year’s budget and debt ceiling battles to defund the Affordable Care Act.

“If they are saying that the defunding issue is going to come up in three months again, then they have learned nothing from this,” she said.

Ayotte stressed that she opposes Obamacare and will work to change or repeal it, but said: “If we learned nothing else from this whole exercise, I hope we learned that we shouldn’t get behind a strategy that cannot succeed.”

Other Republicans promised that the fight is not over. McConnell, for instance, said Republicans “remain determined to repeal this terrible law.”

Underscoring the political pressures on Republicans, two influential groups with starkly different readings of the Senate compromise announced they would include Wednesday’s votes on their widely read “scorecards” of lawmakers.

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 317-6256 or at:kmiller@pressherald.comTwitter: KevinMillerDC
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