Shutdown ends, fiscal and political challenges remain
Tourists visit the reopened Lincoln memorial Thursday morning. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images
The federal government is back in business.
Not long after midnight, President Barack Obama signed a short-term funding measure reopening federal agencies that had been shuttered during a prolonged congressional standoff and lifting the debt ceiling to avoid defaulting on the nation’s obligations.
The swift move came along with a note from the Office of Management and Budget’s Sylvia Burwell thanking government workers for their efforts during “a particularly challenging time” and authorizing them to return to their jobs in the morning.
The measure Mr. Obama signed into law also provides back pay for the more than 800,000 people put on furlough when government funding expired Oct. 1.
The late-night enactment capped an evening of activity in Washington, and brought a 16-day partial government shutdown to an end. Barriers at open-air memorials on the National Mall were being removed before dawn, and civil servants began to return to their jobs.
It concluded in a fashion that in hindsight seemed inevitable — after repeated failed attempts to get the concessions his GOP conference sought, Speaker John Boehner waited for a bipartisan Senate bill and then allowed the measure to pass on the House floor over the opposition of a majority of Republicans.
The final House vote came at 10:20 p.m. and was 285 to 144. All of the chamber’s Democrats joined 87 Republicans to pass the bill and send it down Pennsylvania Avenue. (Two Democratic lawmakers were absent due to health challenges.)
The bill passed the Senate earlier in the night 81 to 18, with all of the objections coming from Republicans.
The Washington Post has a nifty graphic so you can see how your member of Congress voted.
Boehner may have violated an informal GOP rule that you don’t allow a bill without a majority of the majority’s support to pass, but his job seems safe. Some of the holdout House Republicans told Roll Call there is no plan to attempt to oust the speaker.
South Carolina GOP Rep. Mick Mulvaney, who declined to support Boehner for speaker earlier this year, told NPR Wednesday that the Ohio Republican’s footing coming out of the shutdown fight was “100 percent solid.”
Asked to explain, Mulvaney responded: “Because no one blames him. You know my background with the speaker. I don’t think he could have done this any better than he did.”
And without a coup, there’s not even a process for them to take Boehner’s gavel away until the next Congress is sworn in come January 2015.
When we look back and examine the politics at work here, it’s worth considering some facts:
Republicans took an overwhelming political hit for the standoff. (See below.)
The government is only funded through Jan. 15. That’s a shorter continuing resolution than the last one, and the deep disagreements about spending remain.
The debt ceiling is only lifted through Feb. 7.
And by the time those two deadlines roll around, it will officially be a midterm election year.
Thursday, there will be blame, but there will be (more) time spent congratulating one another for solving the crisis.
There also, apparently, will be some work, with the four lead budget conferees slated to meet in the morning.
The chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate budget committees, Republicans Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, and Democrats Sen. Patty Murray of Washington and Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, will begin discussions. In a joint statement Wednesday night, Murray and Ryan expressed hope they can all work together ahead of a Dec. 13 deadline for coming up with a budget agreement. The statement didn’t mention that Ryan opposed the final compromise.
“We recognize the many differences between the House and Senate budget resolutions and the challenges we face in reaching an agreement. But we want to find common ground and work toward a bipartisan deal,” the chairs wrote. “We intend to focus on what we can achieve. We hope we can reduce the deficit in a smarter way. We hope to restore stability to the budget process and end the lurching from crisis to crisis.”
On Thursday we’ll also hear — again — from Mr. Obama during a morning statement at the White House.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who reminded lawmakers on the floor Wednesday night that the spending plan was not actually the funding levels Democrats wanted, will give her weekly press conference.
And then everyone will head home and stay out of town to cool off for a few days. When the House and Senate return early next week, a major question will remain over whether the budget conference can accomplish a long-term compromise, and how lawmakers will deal with the lingering effects of their standoff, both practical and political.
By setting up another series of deadlines a few months off, lawmakers have not given themselves much time to change the way business gets done in Washington. And that leaves the prospect of another standoff hanging over the nation’s capital as both sides strive to work out a long-term budget agreement.
During his brief statement at the White House Wednesday evening, the president said he hoped the debate would play out differently the next time around.
“We’ve got to get out of the habit of governing by crisis,” Mr. Obama said. “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: “So hopefully that’s a lesson that will be internalized, not just by me but also by Democrats and Republicans, not only the leaders but also the rank and file.”
Veteran GOP Sen. John McCain, who was part of the bipartisan group of 14 senators that helped craft the compromise plan, referred to the crisis as an “agonizing odyssey” and “one of the more shameful chapters” he’d seen during his years in the chamber.
But the Arizona Republican also sounded an optimistic note that bipartisanship could prevail in future debates. “This isn’t the last crisis that we are going to go through, but I think we have the framework for the kind of bipartisanship that the American people need and want,” McCain said on the floor.
Just outside the chamber, the leader of the conservative push to defund the president’s health care law as part of the budget fight, Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz, decried the bipartisan agreement as lawmakers protecting the status quo.
“This is unfortunate, but nobody should be surprised that the Washington establishment is pushing back. Nobody should be surprised at the resistance to change,” Cruz told reporters. “And this fight, this debate will continue until collectively the American people can make D.C. listen, can get real relief for all of the people who are hurt because of Obamacare.”
Hours later, on the Senate floor, Cruz declared “Washington is broken,” but his fellow Republicans were pointing their fingers at the Texas freshman for fostering the gridlock of the past few weeks.
“We cannot work together as individuals and expect to accomplish the work that is needed,” said Alaska GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a member of the bipartisan group in the Senate. “We’ve got to be working together.”
A series of stories have taken a hard look beyond just the drop in public opinion polls at the damage done to the GOP brand with the fight to shutter the government over the health care law.
“For Republicans, it was basically for nothing,” writes the Atlantic’s Molly Ball.
And new estimates found the 16 days of the shutdown cost the economy $24 billion.
NewsHour regulars Susan Page of USA Today and Stu Rothenberg of the Rothenberg Political Report and Roll Call appeared on the show as the deal neared passage Wednesday to analyze the political ramifications of the standoff.
Watch here or below:
Stu would rightly caution anyone from drawing too many conclusions about actual electoral consequences this far out from the midterms. The nuances of the battle may not translate to the ballot box, and voters are fed up with Washington in general. Plus, candidates matter, and geography matters when it comes to efforts to reclaim control of a chamber.
The left-leaning Public Policy Polling surveyed voters on behalf of Americans United for Change in states where six major Senate races will take place and found Republicans trail in five of them. That includes incumbents in Arkansas and North Carolina, two of the toughest states for Democrats to hold next fall.
PPP suggested Georgia might actually be in danger for the GOP, with Democratic hopeful Michelle Nunn tied at 42 percent with a generic Republican challenger for the open seat.
And on Wednesday, Neil Newhouse of Public Opinion Strategies and Margie Omero of Purple Strategies conducted a focus group of “Walmart Moms” in Nashville and found deep frustration. The women told the pollsters that Congress is acting like “kindergarteners,” and several said they would want to see “everyone” voted out of power.
We’ll be closely tracking the midterm elections and any shutdown fallout.
A long brewing battle over the Bay Area Rapid Transit system in California continues to simmer. A strike was called off for Thursday but the labor dispute remains.
As expected, Newark Mayor Cory Booker prevailed in the special election to replace the late Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg. Booker, a Democrat, is the first African American to be elected to the Senate since Mr. Obama in 2004.
In his concession speech, Republican Steve Lonegan joked, “I said to myself, who wants that job anyway?”
McConnell was criticized for a $2.8 billion authorization for the Olmstead lock and dam project in Western Kentucky slipped into the shutdown measure. The Senate Conservatives Fund and others dubbed it a “Kentucky kickback,” but the funds haven’t actually been appropriated, and the language was written by Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.
Politico’s Darren Samuelsohn writes that the shutdown’s fallout harm to science could be long-lasting.
Politico’s Darren Goode reports that the shutdown deal does not reimburse states for the funds they kicked in to reopen the Statue of Liberty, the Grand Canyon or major parks.
The all-important (but apparently non-essential) Pandacam will be operational by Thursday afternoon, but the National Zoo won’t reopen to visitors until 10 a.m. Friday. The 19 Smithsonian museums and galleries will open their doors to visitors Thursday.
In a victory for the company town, the bill ending the shutdown awards the D.C. government the ability to spend its money how it pleases through September.
A stenographer was dragged off the House floor during the vote to end the shutdown. She was chanting God Bless America and said something about free masons. “We will not be mocked,” she blurted. Friend of the NewsHour Todd Zwillich captured the audio.
MSNBC’s Suzy Khimm finds that Jim DeMint was right — he is more influential out of the Senate than he was in it.
The guy mowing the lawn on the National Mall won’t accept any donations, in case you were wondering.
The Roanoke, Virginia Science Museum was a surprise beneficiary of the shutdown, getting a shipment of butterflies originally intended for the Smithsonian.
Rep. Raul Labrador tells the Huffington Post immigration reform is dead thanks to the prolonged shutdown fight.
The Washington Post’s latest on leaks about the National Security Agency details the agency’s involvement in the drone program.
A federal judge “stunned the courtroom Wednesday by saying he’ll hold a trial before deciding whether to overturn Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage,” the Associated Press’ Ed White reports. The Detroit Free Press’ Ann Zaniewski has more here.
ProPublica rounds up what news organizations have found to be the problems with the federal health care exchange websites.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., will hit the campaign trail later this month for Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.
The Houston Chronicle took back its 2012 Cruz endorsement.
Someone created a fake Twitter account for a nonexistent congressional district in Arkansas and made it seem like the lawmaker was saying disparaging things about the president. A bunch of Washington folks bought it.
- Roll Call’s Abby Livingston reports that Richard Simmons is sad because the White House “has rejected his overtures to help with the first lady’s ‘Let’s Move!’ childhood anti-obesity initiative.”
- Watch Wednesday’s lead segment on the resolution to the shutdown here or below:
A shrimp as big as your arm! Desk Assistant Joshua Peguero explains why that’s more than just a tasty snack.
Judy Woodruff interviewed](http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/europe/july-dec13/letta_10-16.html) Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta about the global economy, the ongoing Euro crisis recovery and Italy’s next move on immigration reform.
Hari Sreenivasan reported on overpopulation problems with large herds of wild horses in the American Southwest.
- Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.
And there was joy in Data-ville “@bycoffe: Census FTP server appears to be back ftp://ftp2.census.gov”
— Mark Blumenthal (@MysteryPollster) October 17, 2013
Final tally of days in federal Gov't shutdowns: Ford: 10 Carter: 57 Reagan: 14 GHW Bush: 3 Clinton: 26 GW Bush: 0 Obama: 16
— Adrian Gray (@adrian_gray) October 17, 2013
@singernews well, I don't run the country.
— Kasie Hunt (@kasie) October 16, 2013
— Adam Sharp (@AdamS) October 16, 2013
— Seung Min Kim (@seungminkim) October 16, 2013
@robertcostaNRO was not the ONLY winner of the shutdown. Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D-Va.) certainly appreciated it.
— daveweigel (@daveweigel) October 16, 2013
— Greg Giroux (@greggiroux) October 17, 2013
— Amy Argetsinger (@ReliableSource) October 17, 2013
Politics Desk Assistant Bridget Bowman contributed to this report.
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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.
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