Article

October 22nd, 2013

Congress Votes to Reopen Government, Raise Debt Ceiling

Late Wednesday night, Congress voted to pass a bill that ends the government shutdown and enables the government to borrow more money so that it can pay its bills. The last minute deal between Democrats and some Republicans prevented the country from defaulting on its loans and potentially causing another financial crisis.

Here are five highlights of the deal:

  • GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN: Ends it immediately, finances federal agencies until Jan. 15. Workers furloughed without pay when the shutdown began Oct. 1 receive back pay.
  • DEBT CEILING: Government’s authority to borrow money extended until Feb. 7. Using streamlined procedures, Congress could vote to block the debt-limit extension, but that effort was certain to fail.
  • HEALTH CARE LAW: Department of Health and Human Services must certify it can verify income eligibility of people applying for government subsidies for health insurance. By next July 1, the department’s inspector general must report on the agency’s safeguards for preventing fraud.
  • LONGER-RANGE BUDGET ISSUES: In accompanying agreement, House-Senate bargainers will negotiate over issues like budget deficits and spending levels. Bargainers must issue report by Dec. 13, but they are not required to come to agreement.
  • OTHER ITEMS: No pay raise for members of Congress in 2014; $636 million for firefighting for the Interior Department and the Forest Service; language allowing work to continue on a lock in the Ohio River between Kentucky and Illinois.

The vote came at the end of a 16-day shutdown that was the result of a political standoff between House Republicans and the Democratically controlled Senate over whether to include funding for the “Affordable Care Act” (ACA), commonly known as “Obamacare”. While Republicans fought to deny funding for the ACA, despite decreasing support from across the country, the final budget bill included the full funding.

“We fought the good fight; we just didn’t win,” said House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) in an interview with conservative radio host Bill Cunningham.

“[The Republicans] got nothing,” Stuart Rothenberg of The Rothenberg Political Report and Roll Call newspaper told the NewsHour. “They got nothing. This was a disaster for them. They picked a fight that they couldn’t win.”

In addition to reopening the government, Senate leaders also agreed to raise the debt ceiling limit, averting a potential financial crisis by preventing a default. In a default, the U.S. government would not be able to pay its bills.

“Since Senate Democrats passed a budget in March, we have been ready and willing to negotiate a smart, balanced way to further cut the deficit and lay a foundation for economic growth,” wrote Senate majority leader Harry Reid’s (D – Nev.) office in a fact sheet a explaining the deal to the press. “The bipartisan agreement to re-open the government and pay our bills will put an end to the reckless, irresponsible Tea Party shutdown and prevent a default that would have been more damaging than the 2008 financial crisis.”

Economists had warned that if the nation defaulted, “mortgages would soar, consumers and businesses be unable to borrow, the government forced to pay untold extra billions to borrow more money, if and when it can, plunging us deeper into debt,” reports NewsHour economics correspondent Paul Solman.

In a statement, Speaker Boehner vowed to keep fighting the healthcare law, but acknowledged that Republicans were unwilling to risk further harm to the economy to win.

“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,” he said. “That fight will continue. But blocking the bipartisan agreement reached today by the members of the Senate will not be a tactic for us.”

President Obama signed the bill into law after midnight Wednesday night. The measure funds federal agencies until mid-January, at which point there will most likely be another political battle.

Questions:
  • What does this mean?
  • Who does this effect?
  • What happened?
  • What were the effects of the shutdown in the long and short term?
  • Who was specifically involved in ending the budget? What was their role?
– Compiled by Allison McCartney for NewsHour Extra

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