The 16-day partial government shutdown is over after both the Senate and House of Representatives passed a short term spending bill and raised the debt ceiling limit late Wednesday evening, Oct. 16, 2013, President Barack Obama promptly signed the bill just after midnight on Thursday, Oct. 17 meeting the debt ceiling deadline. 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.
The Senate voted Wednesday evening, Oct, 16 around 8 p.m. 81 to 18 in favor of reopening the government and raising the debt ceiling, only Republican Senators, primarily Tea Party conservatives opposed the bill. The bill was then promptly sent to the House who voted 285 to 144 around 11 p.m., again with the all the votes opposing the bill coming from House Republicans.
Although Federal workers will go back to work tomorrow, both chambers are taking the rest of the week off, after working overtime to find a solution to avert a debt default before the deadline of midnight on Oct. 17. Senate Majority Leader Reid spoke to reporters at a press conference after the Senate vote, telling them "I'm tired." He also said there will be some ramifications to the economy as result of the shutdown, and it will take time for everyone to heal; "It will be some time before we realize the effects of what we've just done, but the shutdown has hurt our economy to a significant degree. But we were able to work it out."
After the Senate passed the bill Wednesday evening, and the House agreed to the framework of the bill, President Obama also spoke to reporters from the White House Press Briefing Room. The President primarily commended the Senate for coming to a bipartisan deal. President Obama also spent some time discussing his and Congress' agenda beyond the crisis. Obama stated; "There is a lot of work ahead of us, including the need to earn back the trust of the American people that has been lost of the last few weeks."
President Obama told reporters; "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."
The President promised there would not be a repeat conflict and performance when the spending bill expires and debt ceiling will need to be again raised this January and February 2014. The President will speak at greater length about the agreement and bill, when he addresses the nation on Thursday morning at 10:35 a.m.
President Obama was feeling victorious, with the Senate's bill he was able to get the Republicans to "blink," the bill that passed was essentially the clean bill he was insisting on throughout the crisis. Despite his claims to be open minded to compromise late in the game, he was not really, and with this bill he got exactly what he wanted. The bill contained essentially no provisions that delayed or interfered with his health care law, the Affordable Care Act, which had been House Republicans, especially Tea Party Conservative main demands.
House Republicans started out wanting the whole of Obamacare defunded and delayed, but as the shutdown went on, and debt ceiling deadline neared their demands weakened. They then spent most of the government shutdown essentially asking for the individual mandate to be delayed for a year, and insurance subsidies for executive and legislative employees stripped, both reasonable demands that would not have dismantled the whole law, and a compromise might have been able to be reached sooner had the President and Democrats truly wanted to negotiate one.
The bill passed and signed into law is essentially the clean bills the President and Democrats have demanded for any short term measures. It 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, but excludes the medical device tax delay, which had been on the Senate table since Saturday, Oct. 12. 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.
There was a lot of concern throughout the crisis, and especially on Tuesday, Oct. 14, when Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-OH was unable to rally House Republicans on bill countering the Senate's plan, that his speakership would take a beating. However, after the Senate agreements, Republicans, even among conservative Tea Party members lauded the Speaker for how he dealt with the Democrats, and maintained GOP unity through the shutdown.
Tea Party chairwoman Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-MN praised Boehner stating she was "very proud" of him, and that he did "a wonderful job." Continuing she said; "He was committed. We fought for the American people that was the issue." While at the end of the House Republican Conference meeting that gathered to discuss the Senate deal, Boehner received a standing ovation from Republican members.
Boehner did not speak to reporters after the meeting only shaking his fist for victory despite the concessions House Republicans made to reopen the government and avoid a default. The Speaker however, spoke to ABC News Radio Cincinnati affiliate WLW-AM, saying; "We did everything we could to get them to the table to negotiate, they just kept saying no. No, no, no. So we fought the good fight. There's no reason for our members to vote no today."
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 government has been partially shutdown since the new fiscal year began on Oct. 1. The debt ceiling of $16.7 trillion would have also reach its limit on Oct. 17, and without passing a bill to raise the debt ceiling limit the U.S. would have defaulted 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. The shutdown of the 2013 will now be remembered as the second longest shutdown, clocking in at 16 days.
Despite claims to the contrary, the U.S. has defaulted twice before, according to a report from Associated Press this happened 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." Fortunately for the U.S, global economy and markets 2013 will not be added to the short list of years the U.S. defaulted on its loans.
The government shutdown ended and a catastrophic debt crisis averted in what USA Today called "an epic political drama," but still the wounds and ramifications of the battle will linger on. President Obama and Democrats' constant blame game public relations angle gave the Republicans a beating, one where they were overwhelming be blamed by Americans in recent polls, while the Democrats and especially President barely took a hit.
This is not to say the President or Congressional Democrats were blameless in this situation, their refusal to compromise or to negotiate at all with Republicans is what prolonged the crises. With the country on the brink, they were looking for all or nothing win in what was often referred to as a game, a battle between the two parties.
The Republicans however, promised to keep marching on, not to declare a total failure, House Speaker Boehner who was bruised by the inability to rally his party on a bill agreement to end the crises vowed to continue fighting to curb the health care law, stating on Wednesday; "Our drive to stop the train wreck that is the president's health care law will continue." The real test of the fallout from this government drama will take place during the 2014 midterm elections, where Americans will lay their verdict as to whether the Republicans or the Democrats and President Obama truly bear the brunt of the blame for the 2013 budget and debt ceiling showdown.
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.