The Government Shutdown Deal – RantAWeek

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The Government Shutdown Deal

Posted by Angela Yang on October 20, 2013 at 9:19 pm

On the evening of October 16th, the Senate passed another proposal to raise the debt ceiling and reopen the government with an 81 to 18 vote, after the House was unable to move forward with a resolution the day before. Later that night, the House approved the Senate’s proposal with a 285 to 144 vote just hours before we would reach the debt ceiling on October 17th. Thus, the Republicans in the House conceded, ending the sixteen-day long government shutdown with a bill that was signed into law at 12:30am by President Obama. The deal allowed an extension of governmental borrowing power until January 15th and raised the debt ceiling until February 7th of next year.

This decision is a prime example of how legislators intentionally put themselves in dire situations by creating major deadlines. Although they seem highly irrational, these actions actually reflect a lot about strategies used in American politics. Congressmen create deadlines as a way of punishing each other for their inability to compromise. They hope that during these times of despair, the opposing political party will give in to their demands. Yet, this is exactly what has not happened and probably what will never happen. Within just a year, our government has been dangerously close to the edge of the fiscal cliff, squeezed by sequester, and shut down and reopened. But instead of coming together to compromise, legislators keep pushing key issues further and further back. By not reaching an agreement, they punish everyone, forcing the US back into the cycle of stalemate.

The October 17th deadline was very crucial to Congress because the Treasury would run out of ways to meet its obligations without borrowing more money. Soon after, the government runs the risk of defaulting on the national debt because of its inability to delay payments. For this reason, negotiations over the debt ceiling are generally interconnected with budget deals.

Concessions from both parties are usually necessary to get both types of bills debated and passed through the Republican-controlled House and Democrat-controlled Senate. When the government was first shut down, a Continuing Resolution could not be passed because House refused to even begin debating a bill passed by the Senate unless a majority of the majority would support it. A majority of the majority in the House meant reaching a consensus with some hardline conservatives in the Tea Party, a practically impossible feat. Luckily, on the 16th, the House passed a bill with only a minority of Republican votes and a majority of Democratic ones after Senate majority leader Harry Reid and minority leader Mitch McConnell were able to construct a deal hours before we hit the debt ceiling.

The shutdown and congressional stalemate caused congressional approval ratings to plummet, especially those of the Republicans, as voter discontent threatens the representatives’ next term. It also cost our government billions of dollars and damaged our credibility. As for the hundreds of thousands of furloughed workers that were sent on an unpaid, forced vacation from their jobs, they were expected to be back to work on Thursday. Many Republican leaders, like Senator Ted Cruz from Texas who led the push for greater Democratic concessions, were disappointed with the deal, while others like House Speaker John Boehner felt that passing the bill was the only viable solution. Republicans had lost the shutdown battle, but at a large cost for everyone.

It is easy to blame Republican partisanship for the government shutdown, but that does not account for the lack of compromise on the administration’s side either. Many people predicted that the Democrats would be more compromising, but Obama refused to be persuaded. For example, Democrats during Ronald Reagan’s term cut military spending and Republicans lessened the scope of Medicaid during Bill Clinton’s term. In this case, Republicans initially demanded that the Democrats defund the Affordable Care Act and change regulation standards on carbon emissions of the Environmental Protection Agency. In the end, the only concession made by the Democrats was an amendment stating that the incomes of people receiving subsidized health insurance must be checked more thoroughly. Therefore, both Republicans and Democrats are partially at fault for the government shutdown.

Fortunately, legislators of the two parties were able to come together on October 16th to avert another major crisis, whose repercussions would be disastrous for our economy and all of the nations that are economically tied to us. In addition to the new budget and debt ceiling, both parties have also set a goal of creating a budget plan for the next ten years by December 13th. Hopefully this will actually get done so, at least for the next ten years, the government will run smoothly.

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