The government shutdown is over and the nation will be able to borrow more money to pay its bills, thanks to action by Congress on Wednesday night.
The House voted 285-144 to pass legislation that funds the federal government through Jan. 15 and raises the nation’s debt ceiling through Feb. 7. The Senate passed the bill earlier in the night on an 81-18 vote.
President Barack Obama said he would sign the bill as soon as it arrives on his desk.
“We’ll begin reopening our government immediately, and we can begin to lift this cloud of uncertainty and unease from our businesses and from the American people,” Obama said.
The shutdown began Oct. 1, after previous legislation funding the government expired and a dispute over defunding or delaying health care reform kept Congress from enacting a new funding bill.
By the time Congress ended the shutdown, the need for funding the government had merged with the need to raise the government’s $16.7 trillion borrowing limit. The Treasury Department said Congress needed to raise this debt ceiling by Thursday in order to avoid the possibility of the government not having enough money to pay all of its bills. That scenario could have led to the government defaulting on its debt, which could have wreaked havoc in financial markets and raised interest rates for everyone.
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said the increase in the debt ceiling will enable the U.S. to “continue to honor all of our commitments — a core American value — and preserve the full faith and credit of the United States.”
Earlier Wednesday, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, urged his Republican colleagues to vote for the legislation.
Republicans should continue to fight health-care reform through “aggressive oversight” and “smart, targeted strikes,” he said, but “blocking the bipartisan agreement reached today by members of the Senate will not be a tactic for us.”
That not only would risk a debt default, it also “would open the door for the Democratic majority in Washington to raise taxes again” and “undo the spending caps in the 2011 Budget Control Act,” Boehner said.
The battle over funding the government and raising the debt ceiling divided Republicans. Traditional business allies, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, urged members of Congress to approve the deal unveiled Wednesday afternoon by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. But several influential conservative groups, including Heritage Action, urged members to vote against the bill because it didn’t do anything to roll back Obamacare or cut government spending.
The legislation, however, was accompanied by an agreement for the House and Senate to appoint members to a conference committee, which was tasked with coming up with a long-term budget plan for the federal government by Dec. 13.
This committee’s work will begin Thursday morning, when Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray, D-Wash., will have breakfast with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis.
Their work needs to be successful, not only to address the nation’s long-term debt crisis, but also to convince Congress to fund the government the rest of the year when the just-signed funding bill expires in January. Plus, the debt ceiling will need to be addressed again in February, and another down-to-the-wire fight over it could hurt the nation’s credit rating.
Business groups hope Congress will use the next few months to enact policies that help, not hurt, the economy.
“The government shutdown and flirtation with default have dealt a severe and entirely avoidable blow to America’s reputation around the world while harming economic growth and job creation,” said Business Roundtable President John Engler. “It is essential that policymakers make use of this temporary reprieve to enact budget and tax policies that will boost our tepid economic recovery, put more Americans back to work and address the nation’s long-term fiscal challenges.”
Source : Kent Hoover