Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Sens. Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell deal could avert crisis

Official portrait of United States Senator (R-KY)
Official portrait of United States Senator (R-KY) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: Harry Reid (D-NV), United States Sena...
English: Harry Reid (D-NV), United States Senator from Nevada and Majority Leader of the United States Senate (Photo credit: Wikipedia)












Doomsday predictions; the possibility of the United States failing to pay its bills for the first time in history, may be averted. At least that is the hope of Senate Leaders Harry Reid, (D-Nevada) and Mitch McConnell, (R-Kentucky) who have been working on a bi-partisan compromise they hope to sell to their own members as well as the  deeply divided U.S. House.

According to the New York Times and several other sources this morning, the two worked into the night Monday to craft a plan that would pass a resolution to finance the government through Jan. 15, putting the U.S. government back in business and raise the debt limit through February.

The deal would also establish a budget committee by Dec. 13 to replace the automatic budget cuts that were put in place by the sequester. Sequestration--unappealing across the board cuts—were the result last March from failed budget talks between Republicans and Democrats.

The upcoming Senate deal, as reported includes no real changes to the Affordable Care Act, though there may be some minor ones.

House Speaker John Boehner, (R-Ohio) was alerted by McConnell. Boehner failed to react one way or the other.

His position is at least consistent, since Boehner has failed to react to much of anything the Senate has done to keep the government open. Boehner’s lack of reaction to the Senate’s Continuing Resolution (CR) is what sparked the government to furlough federal workers and close its doors to offices, landmarks, and parks all across the country—now in Day 15 of a government shutdown.

It is believed by both Republicans and Democrats that the entire shutdown could have been avoided, had Boehner simply allowed a clean CR to be brought to the House floor for a vote. Instead, the Republicans in the House tied numerous measures to the resolution that had no chance of bi-partisan support.

With more than 40 attempts by House Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare, the House attempted unsuccessfully to pass a CR with strings attached. At first, it was tied to gutting the Affordable Care Act through several varied measures.

Their efforts failed.

On Oct. 1, the Affordable Care Act went on line and millions of people attempted to sign up for health insurance, some for the first time in their lives.

With the law fully implemented, there was no longer any point to tying the law to the CR so Republicans tied other provisions to it with efforts to reopen government programs in a piecemeal fashion. It was no coincidence that amendments House Republicans offered were similar to news events and photo ops, such as the World War II Veterans Memorial or the National Institute of Health where ailing children were prevented from receiving cancer treatments. That photo-op included several House members dressed in medical garb.

Democrats stood firm, refusing to give in to House demands to have it their way. Boehner and other House Republicans continued their attempt to send the message that Democrats were to blame for the government shutting down because Democrats refused to compromise.

Boehner never bothered to mention the months since March that he refused to appoint a conference committee to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the funding bill. He also failed to mention that the Senate’s CR set the spending limit at $967 billion, a figure derived by House members. Senate Democrats wanted the limit to be $1.058 trillion, but they compromised.

What is different this time? Why would Boehner take the Senate deal now when he wouldn’t do it for the last 15 days?

Boehner has said in the past that he has no intention of letting the government default on its debt. The stakes are high. House Republicans have gotten messages from their pals with the purse strings.

Wall Street has issued warnings that a government default would have dire consequences. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew testified before the Senate, painting a grim picture with world consequences of a default. Koch Industries, ironically, has written a letter to senators urging action to avert a debt ceiling crisis.

Republicans approval rating has plummeted, with Americans largely blaming them for the government shutdown.

Mitch McConnell, who is facing an election in 2014 knows that. While he has largely been silent during this debacle, he has stepped into the fray to work with Reid on a deal. If it is successful, his political star could rise once again. If not, well, it could be meteoric calamity.

Boehner is at a crossroads.

With his speakership in jeopardy, he is going to have to make a decision. He has been trying to appease the tea party caucus, with its anti-government rhetoric. On the other side are more reasonable Republicans, some of which have seemingly broken ranks with the speaker. They have been prevented from acting on their own due to an amendment to the House Standing Rules by Pete Sessions, (R-Texas) Republican-heavy rules committee that prevents anyone but the speaker or his designee from introducing the CR to the floor.

We are close to the eleventh hour when deals are made. The stakes are high, not just for the American people, but for the individual members of congress. Next year, the House members will face re-election. Their reputations are at stake.

It may not be pretty, but they probably will get it done.


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