U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell discusses his deal with Harry Reid to raise the debt ceiling and end the government shutdown on the Senate floor. PHOTO: Reuters
Senate leaders Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have reached a deal to end the government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling, plus a little more. The House still has to approve the bill, but signs point to House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) relenting and putting the Senate deal on the floor (if he doesn’t, we’re probably screwed). Here’s what’s in the deal, and what it means for politics going forward:
The government shutdown ends and the debt ceiling gets raised. It’s a little sad that this qualifies as good for the same reason that when you turn your car on in the morning, you usually don’t say, “Hooray, my car turned on!” This is the basic stuff that Congress is supposed to do, but given their inability to do even this stuff, the deal to end the shutdown and raise the debt ceiling is a win.
Also good: the Senate bill establishes a budget conference between the House and Senate with orders to report by December 13th. That’s good because it might avoid the next government shutdown and debt ceiling fights (more on those under “bad”) and may create a deal to end some of the sequester cuts. It’s not like the Democratic and Republican parties have suddenly learned to agree with each other, but the budget conference is better than what’s currently happening (and something the Democrats asked for 19 times).
Income verification measures under Obamacare will be tightened. What does that mean? Very little. It’s mostly a token tweak to Obamacare so Republicans can say, “look we held out for changes to Obamacare, and we got something!” Republican demands shrunk from defund Obamacare to delay Obamacare to repeal the medical device tax to delay the medical device tax to this. That shows you who had the political leverage here.
The debt ceiling is extended to February 7th. The government shutdown is over until January 15th. These dates are not all that far in the future. The appetite to use these as leverage points has not diminished on the far right. Maybe the budget conference can avert these self-made crises before they happen. Maybe not. America has to stop listening to the Tea Party and stop governing by threatening to hurt ourselves (and we do sometimes hurt ourselves, the way we are right now with the government shutdown). This deal doesn’t cut the alcoholic off, it merely puts the drinks away for a few months.