Lawmakers scramble on government shutdown and debt ceiling deal

WASHINGTON – The Senate announced an 11th hour deal today to avoid a disruption in the government’s borrowing ability and a disastrous debt default, and to reopen the federal government, after a 15-day shutdown.

It was not clear at press time that the Senate and House of Representatives would be able to deal with a host of procedural obstacles before midnight going into Oct. 17 when the U.S. Treasury’s borrowing authority will end.

The solution, in any case, is only temporary with another showdown or shutdown possible again early next year.

The Senate deal worked out by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was given a good chance of Senate approval after tea party Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, a prime mover in the right-wing government shutdown, said he would not do anything to delay the vote.

Weeks of a bitter push by tea partiers and other Republicans to use the shutdown and the debt ceiling to kill, weaken or delay the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare, resulting in the lay offs of 800,000 federal workers, seemed to have ended with the failure of the extreme right to achieve its goals of gutting the health care law or of forcing the president to negotiate with a metaphorical gun to his head.

Labor and its allies note, however, that the right wing has been able to achieve a federal budget level far below what President Obama originally proposed, one that would fund government at the level of $1.2 trillion a year. The budget in place now, partly as a result of compromises by Democrats over the last year and partly as a result of automatic budget cuts, called the sequester, is at approximately $950 billion, close to the amount of the original “Ryan budget.” That budget, proposed first in 2010 by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., was strongly opposed by Democrats because of its sharp reductions in social services.

Boehner has told senior staff in the Senate that the House will vote first on the compromise measure. It was expected to be approved but mostly with Democratic votes. Right wingers in the House were reported to be infuriated that Boehner would put on the floor any measure that could be approved only with Democratic votes. His speakership of the House, as a result, is seen as being endangered.

The right wingers are most infuriated because the bill, as they see it, gives President Obama what he has been pushing for all along: A clean debt limit for three months and a two-month government funding bill that leaves Obamacare completely in tact.

The deal extends the nation’s ability to borrow until Feb. 7. It reopens and funds government only through Jan. 15, however.

President Obama appeared unrattled by the drama of the last minute deal making of the past few days, signaling that Republican opposition will not derail any of his agenda in the days to come either.

He told the Spanish-language Los Angeles affiliate of Univision that “the day after” the budget and debt ceiling debacle is resolved, he will push for passage of comprehensive immigration reform.

“Keep in mind, this is not a Latino issue. This is an American issue, the president said. “We know our economy will grow faster if immigration reform passes…We know that the deficits will be reduced if immigration reform passes because people coming out of the shadows, paying more taxes…all brings down the deficit.”

Photo: Ross D. Franklin/AP


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward, as a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee, and as an activist in the union's campaign to win public support for Wal-Mart workers. In the 1970s and '80s he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.