Politics & Policy

Fiscal Crisis Deal (Plus a List of GOP Losses)


Senate Minority Leader McConnell (R-Ky) being pursued by reporters on Wednesday

Photograph by Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo

Senate Minority Leader McConnell (R-Ky) being pursued by reporters on Wednesday

The Senate leadership has reached a deal to reopen the government until mid-January and raise the debt ceiling until early February. House Republicans said that Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) won’t stand in the way of putting the bill to a vote in the House, and the measure could land on President Obama’s desk as early as today. After 16 days of the government shutdown, the deal grew stronger for the Democrats. As Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.)  said on Tuesday: “We have lost this battle.”

First, the most obvious GOP loss: striking down Obamacare. That was the Tea Party demand that set up this fight, but it’s almost absent in the deal. Once a repeal clearly wasn’t going to happen, some Republicans looked to delay the tax on medical devices, but postponement, too, is gone. As is the so-called Vitter Amendment, a convoluted measure pushed by some conservative Republicans to remove the employer subsidy members of Congress and their staff get for health insurance. The main Obamacare-related concession that remains in the deal, according to the New York Times, is tweaks to how the government will verify the income of people who apply for subsidized insurance, something Democrats say won’t harm the Affordable Care Act.

Republicans lost on additional measures they’d hoped to force through. An earlier Senate version prohibited the U.S. Treasury Department from using extraordinary measures to extend the debt ceiling, for example, but that’s not in the proposed final bill, according to Politico. The site also reports that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) tried and failed to get an agreement that would give agencies more flexibility in how they trim their budgets in the sequester. Senate Majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) blocked that effort under the idea that it would weaken Democrats’ leverage in January, when further cuts are scheduled to kick in.

The deal isn’t a pure victory for the Democrats. After all, the debt limit was extended for only four months. But that could be overshadowed by what is perhaps the biggest loss for Republicans: They failed to use the debt ceiling to negotiate other policy decisions—adding to what has been President Obama’s largest goal all along.

Weise_190
Weise is a reporter for Bloomberg Businessweek in New York. Follow her on Twitter @kyweise.

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