After weeks of temper tantrums, the GOP members of Congress have decided that their attempt to dump the Affordable Care Act is indefensible. The government opens up again tomorrow thanks to the passing of a continuing appropriations bill with a Senate vote of 81-18 and a House vote of 285-144. Eighty-seven GOP House members and 27 GOP senators voted for the bill.
What the CR does:
- The government is funded through January 15, 2014.
- The debt ceiling is raised until February 7.
- Congressional leaders will establish a Senate-House conference to negotiate fiscal reforms and report the result to Congress by December 13.
- The Treasury Department is permitted to continue its use of “extraordinary measures” to continue paying the government’s bills when the debt limit is reached.
- Furloughed workers will receive back pay for the time that they were not working.
- Income verification for Affordable Care Act applications will be tightened.
- Sequester cuts are kept at the current level.
- It provides a $1.2 billion funding authorization increase for the Army Corps of Engineers to improve of locks and dams on the lower Ohio River on the Illinois-Kentucky border in Senate Minority Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) area.
- It allocates $450 million to rebuild flood damage in Colorado as well as $36 million to the Department of the Interior and $600 million to the Forest Service for fighting wildfires and refurbishing the fires’ damage.
What the CR doesn’t do:
- The 2.3 percent tax on medical devices is neither eliminated nor delayed.
- And anything else that the GOP House members wanted.
The fight is not over. McConnell (R-KY) declared that the GOP will continue the fight to repeal and replace Obamacare, meaning that another shutdown can happen in January. The Republicans may have more problems the next time around because polls show that the popularity of the health care reform law is rapidly growing.
After gathering House minions at a local restaurant yesterday, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has decided that opening the government, which he doesn’t support but won’t oppose, is really a win for him. When he was asked what he gained in the last 3 weeks, Cruz said that more than 2 million people signed his petition to defund Obamacare. Those two million people translate into fund-raising for Cruz’s future political aspirations.
Right now, fundraising in the South is benefiting Democrats who have outraised GOP counterparts during the third quarter which ended September 30. One of those races will include McConnell who was down $230,000 to candidate Democratic Secretary of state Alison Lundergan.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said that he knew the conservative Republicans wouldn’t win: “People don’t like government, but they sure don’t want it shut down.” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) also spoke out against House conservatives: “I just bitterly resent some of the things that have been done.”
Conservative Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said he hopes the Republicans pushing to derail ObamaCare “learned a lesson that shutdowns and defaults shouldn’t be a part of the way we do business. They should be off limits. We have plenty of other legislative tactics we can use.” Hopefully, he’ll remember this when Sens. Cruz, Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Rand Paul (R-KY) lead the charge to close down the government in another three months.
Karl Rove wrote an angry op-ed for the Wall Street Journal. Except for the accusation of the trap, his conclusion is right on target:
“Barack Obama set the trap. Some congressional Republicans walked into it. As a result, the president is stronger, the GOP is weaker, and ObamaCare is marginally more popular. The battles over spending, taxes and debt have not been resolved, only postponed. It’s time Republicans remembered that bad tactics produce bad outcomes.”
Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD) voted tonight to continue the shutdown just as she originally voted to close the government. At the same time she wants help for her state after a blizzard may have destroyed $100 million of its $7 billion cattle industry. Without the shutdown, cattle ranchers would file claims at the local offices of the USDA Farm Service Agency to file claims for their losses. The shutdown, however, closed those offices.
A week ago, Noem asked the House to help these ranchers because of the “unprecedented” nature of the blizzard that blew through her state. She said, “”There may be disagreement over certain parts of the federal budget, but not on FEMA.” Her state is especially reliant on federal funding because it has no personal or corporate income tax and a sales tax of only 4 percent, the second lowest of all states with sales taxes.
Noem also wants a permanent increase in assistance by expanding the livestock indemnity program in the farm bill. One rancher who lost 96 percent of his herd of 100 cattle wasn’t insured because storm insurance is too expensive. Thus Noem thinks that federal taxes should give insurance to all her cattle ranchers but not to the 50 million people in the United States who cannot afford health insurance.
A members of the Agriculture Committee, Noem voted for the $39 billion cut in food stamp funding over the next decade, taking benefits from 2.8 million low-income workers. Last year, she also voted against federal assistance for victims of Superstorm Sandy that devastated parts of New York and New Jersey. Noem is now on the conference committee to work on a farm bill to replace the one that expired at the beginning of the shutdown.
Instead of “NIMBY” (Not in My Back Yard), Noem’s philosophy represents that of many in the Republican party, “OIMBY” (Only in My Back Yard).
The conservative party members who whine about the deficit just cost the economy as much as $31 billion since their ploy started on October 1. With the GOP having pushed the U.S. to the brink of default and destroyed people’s willingness to spend money, the economy will continue to weaken. The possibility of Fitch Ratings lowering the nation’s rating caused the yield on the 10-year Treasury note, important for interest rates, to rise four basic points from 0.04 percentage point to 2.73 point. Three-month notes rose to their highest rates in more than two years.
Last month, banks were paying for the privilege of buying Treasury notes. Those days are gone. Instead of providing needed services and boosting the economy, tax dollars are now going to lenders, and budget deficits are again growing. The past two weeks have diminished the United States and made it less financially strong and globally competitive, its people less economically secure.
At one time, the Heritage Foundation, although conservative, was a think tank. Now it’s become a radical rightwing, destroy-the-country, organization. Heritage Action CEO Michael Needham proved that this morning on Fox when he explained that the GOP had shut down the government to keep Obamacare from going into effect on January 1. After praising Republicans for standing strong—at least until this morning—he admitted, “Well, everybody knows that we’re not going to be able to repeal this law until 2017, and that we have to win the Senate and win the White House.” GOP members of Congress determined to close down the country are getting paid for being total obstructionists.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) tried to protect House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and take the high ground. In the end, however, he admitted that the GOP was responsible for the debacle: “We won’t be the last political party to overplay our hand,” he said. “It might happen one day on the Democratic side. And if it did, would Republicans, for the good of the country, kinda give a little? We really did go too far. We screwed up. But their response is making things worse, not better.”
Even extremist Pat Robertson, who actually told a woman that her husband is ill because she’s not tithing, thought the GOP went too far in the government shutdown: “The Republicans have got to wave the white flag and say, ‘We fought a good fight and now it’s over. They cannot shut the government down and then bring about a default. We can’t do it. I mean, it would be devastating economically to every human being and the Republicans just can’t get tarred with that.”
Furloughed workers will have to rely on the media to determine whether to go back to work. The employees were strictly ordered not to check government e-mail but instead to monitor television broadcasts and check into the web site of the Office of Personnel Management for instructions. The last post on this website was on October 1. Workers in the Labor Department were told:
“Please note that all employees are expected to report for work on their next regularly scheduled work day following the enactment of appropriating legislation which allows normal DOL operations to resume.”
October 17, 2013 – Spirit Day
Tomorrow is the first day that the government will be open this month. It is also the fourth Spirit Day, a day to remind people to take a stand against bullying and to show support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth. Spirit Day was started in 2010 by high school student Brittany McMillan as a response to the young people who had taken their own lives. Wear your purple, the color that symbolizes the “spirit” on the rainbow flag.