Shutdown Day 16 Recap

Last night the House and Senate passed, and the President signed, legislation to both fund the government and raise the federal debt limit – the shutdown has ended.

The deal contained a continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government through January 15, 2014 and a debt limit extension to February 7, 2014. The bill also contained language requiring verification of income for those eligible for the Affordable Care Act’s subsidies.

Another provision in the CR/debt ceiling legislation is a bicameral, bipartisan budget conference. This conference is to meet to discuss discretionary spending levels for fiscal year (FY) 2014 and develop a report, due December 13, 2013. The conference committee is chaired by Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) and House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI). House conferees include Representatives Diane Black (R-TN), Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn (D-SC), Tom Cole (R-OK), Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY), Tom Price (R-GA), and Budget Committee Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen (D-MD). All Senate Budget Committee members were named as conferees.

The Senate passed the bill with a vote of 81-18 and the House then followed with a vote of 285-144. The bill passed the House with 87 Republicans and 198 Democrats.

Following the vote, the Senate adjourned until Monday, October 28th. The House is scheduled to be in session today, but no schedule has been announced.

While the deal is good news – federal employees can go back to work and will get paid, federal programs can continue, and national parks and monuments are reopened – with the short-term CR, we could be facing this all again in 90 days.

Shutdown Day 15 Recap

After progress on Monday between Senate Democrats and Republicans in crafting a deal to end the shutdown and raising the debt ceiling, Senate leadership paused negotiations following an announcement from House Republicans that they would put forth their own plan.

The initial House plan unveiled on Tuesday included a continuing resolution through January 15, 2014 and a debt ceiling increase through February 7, 2014. The House legislation also included a two year delay of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) medical device tax, income verification for ACA subsidies, and cancellation of ACA subsidies for Members of Congress and the President’s Cabinet. After negotiations, the medical device tax was removed and the continuing resolution would run only through December 15th. The House was scheduled to vote on this proposal Tuesday night, but the vote was cancelled.

After the House plan failed to go anywhere, Reid and McConnell restarted Senate negotiations. It was reported last night that a Senate deal was practically done and that the major sticking point remaining was crafting the budget conference provision so that it cannot be subject to a point of order.

All the back and forth and attempted proposals have cut the timeline for a deal before the projected deadline for hitting the debt ceiling very short.

Shutdown Day 14 Recap

Yesterday Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) met and subsequently announced that they were working toward a deal. The deal is reported to involve a continuing resolution through January 15, 2014, a debt ceiling hike through February 7, 2014 and a deadline of December 13, 2013 for holding a bicameral budget conference to discuss alternatives to sequestration. The deal does not include a delay of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) individual mandate (or completely defunding the ACA), but including income verification requirements for the ACA’s insurance subsidies is still on the table. The plan funds the government at $986 billion until January 15th, when a $21 billion cut pursuant to sequestration would go into effect.

A White House meeting with Congressional leadership scheduled for yesterday afternoon was postponed to allow Senate leadership more time to work out a deal.

The House passed one additional limited continuing resolution (CR) yesterday, to fund the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Indian Education, and the Indian Health Service. H.J.Res. 80 passed by a vote of 233-38.

Also yesterday the Department of Energy released guidance for furloughed workers regarding temporary employment. Under the guidance, retail and food service positions are okayed, but consulting is not.

Shutdown Days 11, 12, and 13 Recap

The last few days have been characterized by talks and negotiations rather than votes on specific proposals to end the government shutdown and/or raise the debt ceiling before the October 17th deadline. Over the weekend, the House was in session on Saturday and the Senate was in session on Sunday.

Senate Republicans met with President Obama at the White House on Friday. Like the meeting with House Republicans, the meeting was considered cordial and productive, but without a resolution. It was also reported that President Obama seemed willing to negotiate, including on the medical device tax.

It was reported Sunday that the Senate remains at an impasse over funding levels and the duration of a debt ceiling increase. Despite seeming to have made some progress with Senator Susan Collins’ (R-ME) proposal late last week, the proposal now appears to be off the table due to disagreement over some of the details in the plan. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) spoke on Sunday but did not reach an agreement.

A few votes were recorded – on Friday the House passed a funding bill for the National Nuclear Security Administration (H.J. Res 76, vote of 248-176). On Saturday the Senate voted 53-45 against cloture on S. 1569, the Default Prevention Act of 2013, which would raise the debt limit through 2014 without any spending cuts.

Additionally, on Saturday morning, a number of House Members lined up to sign a discharge petition that would bring a “clean” continuing resolution to the floor for a vote.

On Saturday, New York reopened the Statue of Liberty, which is operated by the National Park Service, despite the shutdown.

Shutdown Day 10 Recap

President Obama hosted a number of high-ranking House Republicans at the White House Thursday afternoon to discuss the debt ceiling and an end to the shutdown. Reports were that the meeting was friendly but inconclusive.  Speaker Boehner floated a proposal to extend the debt ceiling until November 22, which was rejected by President Obama, but it was a change in discussions and congressional staff continue to work on possible proposals. A group of Senate Republicans also have been working on a shutdown-debt ceiling package based on a proposal from Senator Susan Collins (R-ME).

The Senate acted on the House’s military survivor benefits continuing resolution (CR) and the President signed the legislation. This is the only “mini CR” to pass both chambers thus far. Yesterday the House passed another limited CR, for funding for border security (H.J.Res 79, passed 249-175).

The Senate will be in session on Saturday and will be holding a procedural vote to proceed on a clean debt limit increase. The House announced it will be in session and voting on Monday – Columbus Day.

At 12:14 p.m. yesterday, the Senate’s iconic Ohio Clock stopped running. The workers who would normally wind the clock have been furloughed, adding the clock to the list of shutdown casualties.

Shutdown Day 9 Recap

On Wednesday the House passed two additional limited funding bills – the 11th and 12th such piecemeal funding bills. H.J.Res 90 provides continued funding for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The bill passed with a vote of 252-172. H.J.Res 91, which passed unanimously (425-0, with 6 Members not voting), provides continued funding for military survivor benefits.

Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), House Budget Committee Chair, announced a plan yesterday for raising the debt ceiling and reopening the government. The plan provides a six-week, $118 billion debt limit increase accompanied by cuts. A stipulation to the plan is that both the House and Senate must agree to tax reform and entitlement reform during the six week period. A number of reports have noted that the plan neglects to address the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which has been a sticking point for House Republicans.

Additionally, the House announced on Wednesday that it would be in session and voting on Saturday, October 12th.

Shutdown Day 8 Recap

The government shutdown status quo continued on Tuesday.

The House voted to fund the Head Start program (H.J.Res 84, passed 248-168) and to pay federal employees working during the shutdown on time (H.J.Res. 89, passed 420-0).

The House also passed H.R. 3273, which would establish a bipartisan, bicameral deficit reduction working group. As with the mini-CR strategy, the Senate and President Obama have expressed disinterest in this approach.

Supercommittee Part Deux?

Still facing a stalemate, on Tuesday, October 8, House Republicans discussed plans to bring to the floor HR 3273, legislation sponsored by Reps. Sessions (R-TX), Woodall (R-GA), and Burgess (R-TX) that would establish a short-term bipartisan, bicameral working group to attempt a deal on funding the federal government and addressing the debt limit.  The House Rules Committee approved and reported out the bill on Tuesday.

The proposal for such a working group showcases how broken negotiations are between Congress and the Administration as the country spirals closer to the deadline on the debt ceiling, just one-week away.  Memories of the failed Supercommittee of 2011 are still fresh in the minds of those on the Hill and those who tried to influence the group when the budget negotiations broke down back then.  However, unlike that Supercommittee, the proposed working group would simply work as a short-term negotiating body and have no ultimate authority, as its recommendations would be voted on by Congress through normal process.

President Obama and Congressional Democrats continued to oppose any negotiations – working group or otherwise -  unless and until congressional Republicans agree to reopen the government and no longer threaten defaulting on the debt ceiling.

Shutdown Day 7 Recap

Yesterday, the House passed the latest in the series of limited funding bills, voting to fund the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) at post-sequestration levels. This resolution was approved by a vote of 235-162.

It was also reported yesterday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may begin recalling some of its employees to work. CDC has been operating with 32 percent of its staff for the last week. This announcement comes after the FDA issued a public health alert regarding a salmonella outbreak on the West Coast.

A week into the federal government shutdown, the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that 51% Americans disapprove of how President Obama is handling the budget negotiations while 45% approve, a slight improvement from the last week in September (41% approve to 50% disapprove). Americans also overwhelmingly disapprove of how both Congressional Democrats (61% disapprove) and Republicans (70% disapprove) are handling the negotiations.