The Senate finally reached a bipartisan deal to both end the government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling limit on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013, with the shutdown 16-days old and just a day left before the United States would default on its debt obligation. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY announced the deal together before noon on the Senate floor.
Tuesday evening, Oct. 15 the Senate leaders renewed negotiations to reach a deal before the debt deadline on Thursday, Oct. 17 after the House GOP failed another attempt to secure a plan ending the crisis. The two Senate leaders had been discussing, negotiating and working to finalize a deal since Saturday morning, Oct. 12 only taking a hiatus on Tuesday, Oct, 15 while the House attempted to work out their own plan. Prior to the announcement this morning, Minority Leader McConnell met with his caucus to receive the final nod of approval.
At the deal announcement, Senate Majority Leader Reid stated that "After weeks spent facing off across a partisan divide that often seemed too wide to cross, our country came to the brink of a disaster. But in the end, political adversaries set aside their differences and disagreements. What we’ve done is send a message to Americans … and in addition to that, to the citizens of every country in the world, that the United States lives up to its obligations." Reid also said; "This is not a time for pointing fingers and blame. This is a time for reconciliation."
While Minority Leader McConnell stated; "Republicans remain determined to repeal this terrible law. But for today - for today - the relief we hope for is to reopen the government, avoid default and protect the historic cuts we achieved under the Budget Control Act." Concluding he said; "This is far less than many of us had hoped for, frankly. But it's far better than what some had sought."
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney issued the official and immediate response from the President to the deal, telling reporters at the daily press briefing; "The president applauds Leader Reid and Minority Leader McConnell for working together to forge this compromise and encourages the Congress to act swiftly to end this shutdown and protect the full faith and credit of the United States of America.He looks forward to Congress acting so that he can sign legislation that will reopen the government and remove this threat from our economy,"
The deal is essentially the clean bills the President and Democrats have demanded for any short term measures. The new deal excluded the medical device tax delay, funds the government until Jan. 15, 2014, raises the debt limit until Feb. 7, 2014, with budget conference negotiations on long term spending cuts to end by Dec. 13, 2013. The timetable avoids a repeat crisis during the Christmas and New Year's holidays, as per the President's request, but before the second round of sequester cuts go into effect on Jan. 15, 2014 making the cuts negotiable.
The Senate bill also includes a provision to check income levels for anyone receiving subsidies under the healthcare law. Unlike the House's proposal from Tuesday, the Senate bill also permits the usage of the "extraordinary measures" provision, which allows the President and the Treasury Department to extend government spending without Congress.
The Senate leaders hope the bill they created will be able to garner enough support in the House to pass the moderate bill. It the Republican controlled House that had been making the majority of the demands, requiring that the spending bills contain provisions to delay all and then elements of the President's health care law, the Affordable Care Act.
Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-OH will permit the House to vote on the Senate bill, and wants the House Republicans to vote in favor of the bill. In remarks to the press, Boehner responded about the deal, saying; ”Blocking the bipartisan agreement reached today by the members of the Senate will not be a tactic for us.”
Conservative members of the House forming the Tea Party were the one's balking at the Speaker of the House John Boehner's R-OH proposal on Tuesday, because there were not enough Obamacare related provisions. Still one of the most conservative Tea Party members, Senator Ted Cruz, R-TX said he would not delay or stop the Senate bill from passing, but still intends to vote against it, perhaps leading the way for Tea Party members of the House to be too harsh towards bill.
The government has been partially shutdown since the new fiscal year began on Oct. 1. The debt ceiling of $16.7 trillion will also reach its limit on Oct. 17, without passing a bill to raise the debt ceiling limit the U.S. will default on its loans.
There have been a total of 17 prior government shutdowns in American history between the 1970s and 1990s with the December-January, 1995-1996 shutdown being the longest clocking in at 21 days. Then as now a Democratic President Bill Clinton was in a fierce ideological battle with a Republican House of Representatives.
According to a report from Associated Press, the U.S. has defaulted twice before, in 1812 during the War of 1812, and in 1979 during Democrat Jimmy Carter's administration, because of "a back-office glitch that ended up costing taxpayers billions of dollars. The Treasury Department blamed it on a crush of paperwork partly caused by lawmakers who - this will sound familiar - bickered too long before raising the nation's debt limit." But also in 1933, when Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt changed the monetary standard, taking the country off the gold standard at the height of the Great Depression, which was considered a form of 'technical default.'
Voting on the bill would need to commence today, if it is to pass both Houses and reach the President's desk for his signature in time to beat the debt ceiling deadline. The Senate hopes to vote on the bill the latest by this evening.
The Senate's bill is a victory for the President and Democrats, because it is essentially the clean bills they had been demanding throughout the crisis. After the President's blame game rhetoric and the fact the Republicans were the one's conceding in the end, it will make it difficult for especially House Republicans not to feel the ramifications of the fallout over losing the battle.
Especially since in most of the polls it is the Republicans the American public is blaming the most. According to an ABC News/Washington Post poll released on Monday, Oct. 14, the Republicans have 74 percent disapproval, Democrats at 61 percent, and the President only shouldering the blame at 53 percent disapproval over the way the crises were handled.
Still, the President and Democrats should not be blameless had they conceded to some provisions and concessions earlier the shutdown might have been averted or least have been much shorter. The same could be same of the affect on the U.S's global and economic standing by reaching a deal to raise the debt ceiling so close to the deadline. In 2011, when an 11th-hour deal was made averting a crisis, the country still faced a lowering of their credit rating from Standard & Poor's. Only at the midterm elections in 2014 will the Republicans, Democrats and President Obama see who will truly bear the brunt of the blame in the long run.
Bonnie K. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program. Her specializations are US, Canadian & Israeli politics.