Congress passes Reid-McConnell funding, debt ceiling deal

Passage of Reid-McConnell in the House

The government shutdown has come to an end and the debt ceiling has been raised after Congress passed the deal worked out between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

The final deal is funds the federal government through January 15 and raises the debt ceiling to February 7. It also allows for budget negotiations between the two chambers, with the goal of coming to an agreement by December 13. Those points were sort of the basic parts of the deal.

Other aspects of the deal include, according to Jamie Dupree, back-pay for furloughed federal workers, reporting requirements on verification procedures for ObamaCare subsidies, and blocks a pay raise for Congress in FY 2014.

There were also seven earmarks included in the deal, including $2 billion for river lock project on the Ohio-Kentucky border. That earmark has drawn the ire of the Senate Conservatives Fund, which accused McConnell of scheming to secure the funding, calling it the “Kentucky Kickback.” McConnell denied it, though he’s supportive of the boondoggle project. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is reportedly responsible for adding the provision, which was requested by President Obama, though that may not be enough to quell accusations of behind the scenes dealmaking.

Other than verification requirements, the deal didn’t change, delay or defund the 2010 healthcare law. And while the deal doesn’t touch the sequester, that may only be temporary because congressional Democrats will undoubtedly push hard to undo those bipartisan spending cuts in budget negotiations before December 13.

The deal was quickly blasted by conservative groups — including the Club for Growth, FreedomWorks, and Heritage Action.

The Club for Growth and FreedomWorks said Republican leaders were surrendering or capitulating and not dealing with fiscal realities. Heritage Action focused on the problems with ObamaCare. All three groups key-voted the deal for their respective scorecards, urging members of Congress to vote “no.”

After an embarrassing on Tuesday, in which Speaker John Boehner was forced to pull a funding and debt ceiling measure off the floor, House Republicans, including many conservative members, came together to support the leader of the chamber.

“The House has fought with everything it has to convince the president of the United States to engage in bipartisan negotiations aimed at addressing our country’s debt and providing fairness for the American people under ObamaCare. That fight will continue,” said Boehner in a statement.

“Our drive to stop the train wreck that is the president’s health care law will continue,” he continued. “We will rely on aggressive oversight that highlights the law’s massive flaws and smart, targeted strikes that split the legislative coalition the president has relied upon to force his health care law on the American people.”

The Senate acted first on the deal, passing it in an 81 to 18 vote on Wednesday evening. All Senate Democrats voted for the measure and the 18 votes against the measure came from Republicans, including Sens. Tom Coburn (R-OK), John Cornyn (R-TX), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Mike Lee (R-UT), Rand Paul (R-KY), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Pat Toomey (R-PA).

“Tonight, a deal was struck to re-open the government and avoid the debt ceiling deadline. That is a good thing,” said Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) after the vote. “However, our country faces a problem bigger than any deadline: a $17 trillion debt. I am disappointed that Democrats would not compromise to avoid the looming debt debacle.”

After the Senate passed the measure, President Obama delivered a short statement reporters at the White House, noting that he would sign it shortly after the House followed the Senate.

“I want to thank the leadership for coming together and getting this done.  Hopefully, next time, it won’t be in the 11th hour. One of the things that I said throughout this process is we’ve got to get out of the habit of governing by crisis,” said President Obama.

“”And my hope and expectation is everybody has learned that there is no reason why we can’t work on the issues at hand, why we can’t disagree between the parties while still being agreeable, and make sure that we’re not inflicting harm on the American people when we do have disagreements,” he added.

One reporter asked President Obama if a similar situation was going to happen again in January and/or February, when the short-term spending and debt ceiling deals expire. To which he replied, “No.”

The House passed the measure by a vote of 285 to 144. The vote surprised some people, given the number of Republican votes it received. Most thought it was inevitable that the deal would pass, but the expectation was 220 to 230 votes.

In the end, 87 House Republicans voted for it, while 144 voted against it. All House Democrats supported the deal. President Obama signed into law before the end of the night.

One of the surprising votes against the measure was House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI). Though he said the deal “averts default” and “sets a precedent for further changes to Obamacare,” Ryan called it a “missed opportunity.”

“To pay our bills today—and to make sure we can pay our bills tomorrow—we must make a down payment on the debt. Today’s legislation won’t help us reduce our fast-growing debt,” said Ryan in a statement. “In fact, it could extend the debt ceiling well into next year, further delaying any action. In my judgment, this isn’t a breakthrough. We’re just kicking the can down the road.”

The next stage is budget negotiations. Boehner has already appointed his four conferees, which include Ryan and Rep. Tom Price (R-GA). Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) will be among the upper chamber’s conferees. She promised this morning to “find common ground” between her and Ryan’s budgets in hopes to reach a compromise.


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