An agreement to raise the debt ceiling and end the government shutdown appeared headed toward almost certain passage by the Senate and the House late Wednesday or early today, a quick turn of events after a last-ditch effort by Tea Party conservatives in the House to somehow defund Obamacare and delay a new debt ceiling failed.
Senators in both parties stepped into the breech and fashioned a compromise that House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, promised before day’s end to bring to a House vote and pass even if he has to rely mostly on Democratic votes.
The last-minute drama also had a disconcertingly familiar look and sound as if choreographed for maximum exposure but predetermined by the simple arithmetic of vote counting. Sen. John McCain, the outspoken Arizona Republican and former presidential candidate, said weeks ago the GOP had picked a fight it could not win the way it chose to fight, as did others in the Senate, though at lower volume.
Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., was among senators who spoke Wednesday in support of the compromise deal on the Senate floor. Cochran said putting the government back to work, assuring the nation can pay its bills and working together toward longer-term goals all are part of restoring public confidence in the ability and integrity of the Senate.
Cochran and his Mississippi colleague, Sen. Roger Wicker, a Republican from Tupelo, both opposed a government shutdown and said with others that the hated Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) would not be stopped by that tactic, even though they strongly oppose the program.
The fix as proposed would last only a few months, setting up other possible showdowns early in 2014. This is how The Washington Post described the plan:
• It would reopen the government and fund it through Jan. 15, 2014, raise the debt limit until Feb. 7, 2014, and allow borrowing to continue for a few weeks longer, using special accounting measures.
• It would require additional measures, favored by the GOP, to ensure that people who receive financial help in buying health insurance are being honest about their income.
• It would set up a negotiating committee to try to come up with a longer-term budget plan. The committee would be expected to issue budget recommendations by Dec. 13.
• It would provide back pay to furloughed federal workers.
The country would be better off if the new special committee could reach a bipartisan agreement and others would reintroduce bipartisanship on both sides of the aisle, especially among the leadership.