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.
Due to the ongoing federal government shutdown, there are no health care-related hearings on Capitol Hill scheduled for this week. Check back here for updates on the shutdown and future events.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This dewonkify was originally posted on Capitol Health Record on January 15, 2013.
Word: Debt Ceiling
Definition: The statutory authority given by the Congress to the U.S. Treasury to borrow a certain amount of money and/or issue securities to fund the operations of the federal government.
Used in a sentence: “After the Debt-Ceiling Breach: What Day 1 in Default America Might Look Like”
History: According to the Congressional Budget Office, Congress long has restricted the Department of Treasury’s ability to issue debt and has exercised control over the total amount of borrowing. However, until the summer of 2011, raising the debt ceiling traditionally had been a pro forma occurrence without much policy debate or partisanship in the Congress. The “debt ceiling crisis” that occurred in the summer of 2011 was a political debate and battle between Congressional Republicans and President Obama. The Republicans generally were refusing to increase the federal government’s authority to borrow money without taking steps contemporaneously to decrease federal spending. The debate resulted in enactment of the Budget Control Act of 2011, which raised the debt ceiling but also called for reductions in federal spending. This policy debate brought the “debt ceiling” issue into the public forum and introduced the phrase into the vernacular. Click here for more information about the Budget Control Act. (For more history on the debt ceiling, click here.)
What it Means: The U.S. government, through the Department of the Treasury, regularly borrows money to cover the cost of running the government’s operations, as well as to pay for maturing securities, such as treasury notes, bonds, and bills. Treasury notes, bonds, and bills are issued to raise funds to support the federal government’s activities. This borrowing of money is referred to as public debt. The amount of money the U.S. Department of the Treasury is allowed to borrow typically has been controlled – and limited – by the Congress. This restriction on the federal government’s borrowing authority is known as the “debt ceiling” or “debt limit.” When borrowing approaches the authorized amount it is referred to as “hitting the debt ceiling;” the Congress then must act to increase the debt limit or else the government cannot borrow additional funds. Without authority to borrow additional money and pay for maturing securities, the federal government could default, causing it to default on its debts and resulting in significant domestic and international economic disruption.
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.
It’s not too late to RSVP for tomorrow’s “2013 Regulatory and Economic Outlook” webinar featuring Drinker Biddle’s Lobbying and Advocacy Team Senior Government Relations Director Jodie Curtis, Drinker Biddle Counsel Heather B. Abrigo, and Drinker Biddle Director of Growth Strategies Nick Araco.
The webinar, to be held at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, October 9, 2013, will touch upon implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or health reform) and in particular what employers need to be thinking about, the debt ceiling debate, sequestration, and the current legislative and regulatory environments. For more information or to register, see http://www.drinkerbiddle.com/Register/2013-Regulatory-and-Economic-Outlook?Section=Events.
The monthly jobs report for September, due out last Friday, has been delayed due the shutdown.
The House continued their effort to pass small continuing resolutions (CRs) on Friday (see Wednesday’s and Thursday’s recaps for more information). Measures passed on Friday include funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) (247-164) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for low-income Women, Infants and Children (the WIC program) (244-164). On Saturday, the House passed H.R. 3223, the Federal Employee Retroactive Pay Fairness Act, which would provide funding for furloughed federal workers once the shutdown is over. H.R. 3223 passed 407-0, with 24 Members not voting. This leaves eight additional limited funding bills waiting for a vote in the House. The Senate has not taken up any of these “mini CRs.”
On Saturday the House also passed a non-binding resolution to allow military chaplains to continue to provide religious services. On Saturday the Pentagon also ordered 400,000 furloughed civilian employees back to work.
The Senate was also in session this weekend.