It’s hard to believe that the Tea Party controlled U.S. House of Representatives was willing to take our country to the edge of a financial disaster, but they did. Fortunately, Congress finally came to its collective senses and averted the disaster. The Senate approved a compromised proposal to fund the government until Jan. 15, 2014, and extend the debt limit until Feb. 7, 2014. There were 81 Senators voting in favor of the bill, with only 18 Senators voting against it. Shortly thereafter, the United States House of Representatives voted 285 to 144 to approve the bill. As expected, President Obama immediately signed the bill into law. Passage of the bill ended the shutdown of the federal government. It also approves the continuing resolution that allows the government to continue borrowing money, avoiding a default.
Approximately 450,000 furloughed federal workers were able to get back to work immediately. All federal employees who were considered “essential” worked for more than two weeks without any income. They will now be paid. But this resolution only “kicks the can down the road.” It will not resolve the bitter and underlying partisan differences on such things as Obamacare, entitlements, taxes or spending. This showdown in Congress could have been avoided, but only in a bi-partisan manner. The approved bill requires the House and Senate to appoint budget negotiators and reach an agreement by Dec. 13, 2013. In the past, these “super committees” have failed miserably. The clock will be ticking immediately since government funding will run out on Jan. 15, 2014, with the debt ceiling being extended only to Feb. 7, 2014.
This fight in Congress was very ugly and took the country to the very brink of default. There can be no real winners in this partisan political battle. But it’s very clear that the Republican Party came out of the fray as the biggest loser. Despite all the rhetoric, Republicans failed to extract any major concessions from Democrats and President Obama on changes to the Affordable Care Act. The attempts to strip the law of all funding, to delay the entire law, and to delay the medical device tax were all unsuccessful. The only change under the bill that passed was to provide some strengthening to the anti-fraud protection for government subsidies in the new health insurance marketplace. Democrats in Washington have dubbed the shutdown a “manufactured crisis” by Tea Party Zealots in Congress. One real lesson learned from this latest battle is that the Tea Party now calls the shots in the House of Representatives.
Hopefully, Congress has learned a good lesson, although a painful one and will change their ways. Most reasonable Americans want the House and Senate to work together and to start working to solve the many problems that face our nation. The bottom line is that the attempt to shut down the federal government was nothing more than a Tea Party plan to embarrass President Obama. The sad commentary is that our country did not need another world wide embarrassment. At some point, I hope and pray that reasonable minds will prevail and that Congress will work together and forge a deal regarding the budget. That will be best for the majority of Americans. Perhaps the one positive that will come from the latest shutdown will be that Congress, with a 5 percent approval rating, will wake up and put the country’s interest first for a change.
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