At 11th Hour, G.O.P. Blinks in Standoff – NYTimes.com


At 11th Hour, G.O.P. Blinks in Standoff

Doug Mills/The New York Times

Speaker John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio,  emerged from a meeting with Republican House members on Thursday.

By JONATHAN WEISMAN and JENNIFER STEINHAUER

Published: October 16, 2013

 

WASHINGTON — Congressional Republican leaders conceded defeat Wednesday in their budget fight with President Obama over the new health care law, agreeing to support a reopening of the government and a lifting of the nation’s borrowing authority in exchange for future budget negotiations.

Speaker John A. Boehner, the leader of conservative House Republicans whose push to strip money for the health law led to the shuttering of much of the government on Oct. 1, said that the House would not block a bipartisan agreement reached in the Senate that yielded virtually no concessions to the Republicans.

“The fight will continue,” Mr. Boehner said in a statement. “But blocking the bipartisan agreement reached today by members of the Senate will not be a tactic for us.”

The decision came about 24 hours before the Treasury was due to exhaust its borrowing authority, putting the nation on the brink of a default. Mr. Boehner had earlier told colleagues privately that he would not allow the nation to default.

Under the agreement, the government would be funded through Jan. 15, and the debt ceiling would be raised until Feb. 7. The Senate will take up a separate motion to instruct House and Senate negotiators to reach accord by Dec. 13 on a long-term blueprint for tax and spending policies over the next decade.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, stressed that under the deal, which he negotiated with Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, budget cuts extracted in the 2011 fiscal showdown were not reversed, as some Democrats had wanted, a slim reed that not even he claimed as a significant victory.

The deal, Mr. McConnell said, “is far less than many of us hoped for, quite frankly, but far better than what some had sought.”

“It’s time for Republicans to unite behind other crucial goals,” he added.

With Senate Republican hard-liners promising cooperation, the Senate is expected to move first. Progress slowed as the deal’s framework was being translated into detailed legislative language. The Senate vote was expected in the early evening. The House would then follow, with a final vote likely around midnight.

Earlier, a Democratic leader had said the Senate would provide the legislative language to the House, which would vote first.

Chastened Senate Republicans said they hoped the outcome would be a learning experience for lawmakers in the House and the Senate who shut down the government in hopes of gutting Mr. Obama’s signature domestic achievement, the Affordable Care Act. Instead of using the twin deadlines of an end to government funding and borrowing authority to address the drivers of the federal deficit, conservatives focused on a law they could never undo as long as Mr. Obama is president, several senators said.

“We took some bread crumbs and left an entire meal on the table,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina. “This has been a really bad two weeks for the Republican Party.”

Senator Richard Burr, Republican of North Carolina, took a swipe at Senators Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, and Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, as well as House members who linked further funding of the government to gutting the health care law, which is financed by its own designated revenues and spending cuts.

“Let’s just say sometimes learning what can’t be accomplished is an important long-term thing,” Mr. Burr said, “and hopefully for some of the members they’ve learned it’s impossible to defund mandatory programs by shutting down the federal government.”

But while Mr. Cruz conceded defeat, he did not express contrition.

“Unfortunately, the Washington establishment is failing to listen to the American people,” he said as he emerged from a meeting of Senate Republicans called to ratify the agreement.

Mr. Cruz promised not to use parliamentary tactics to block a final vote, raising hopes that the government will be opened and the debt ceiling will be lifted before Thursday, when the Treasury exhausts its borrowing authority.

“From our side, I don’t see any evidence of delay,” said Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky and a Cruz ally.

Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, said that Mr. Obama supported the compromise reached by the Senate leaders, and he urged lawmakers in both chambers to pass it quickly.

Mr. Carney said the agreement “achieves what’s necessary” to reopen the federal government after 16 days, and removes “the threat of economic brinksmanship” that raised the possibility of a government default.

“We leave parliamentary procedures to the Congress,” he said. “But we obviously hope that each house will be able to act swiftly. We are already on Day 16 of a wholly unnecessary shutdown of government.”

House Democrats remained confused and angry. On a scale of 1 to 10, “this is a 12,” in terms of ridiculousness, said Jackie Speier, Democrat of California. “This is like a preschool that’s gone awry. I’ve been in public office for 30 years, and I’ve never seen anything like it.”

 At 11th Hour, G.O.P. Blinks in Standoff – NYTimes.com.

 

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