An eleventh-hour agreement negotiated by Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell to reopen the federal government and pay America’s bills was accepted by the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday night after top House Republicans admitted that their attempts to extract a ransom in exchange for simply fulfilling their basic responsibilities as representatives had failed miserably.
With less than few hours to spare, the House signed off on the Senate’s amendments to H.R. 2775, sending the legislation to President Barack Obama for his signature. The White House said the president was prepared to sign the legislation immediately, thereby allowing agencies that depend on congressional appropriations to reopen for business beginning tomorrow. The Department of the Treasury, meanwhile, will soon have the authority it needs to pay the nation’s bills.
The deal proposed by Reid and McConnell and passed by Congress can be likened to a band-aid that was quickly placed over a wound that was on the verge of beginning to bleed very badly. It treats only symptoms and does not address any of the underlying root problems that have caused us to lurch from one manufactured fiscal crisis to another. But its importance cannot be understated.
The agreement keeps the so-called “sequester” in effect and only keeps agencies subject to the appropriations process funded through mid-January, setting up another budget showdown after the new year. The so-called debt ceiling (debt repayment ceiling would be more appropriate) will need to be raised again by mid-February in order to once again prevent a default.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi rallied her entire caucus behind the agreement. With the exception of two Democrats who are out sick, Pelosi and her leadership team delivered the votes of every single Democratic member of the House. John Boehner, on the other hand, was only able to persuade eighty-six of his colleagues to vote with him to reopen the government and pay America’s bills. One hundred and forty-four Republicans refused to go along.
The final tally was two hundred and eighty-five ayes, one hundred and forty-four nays. As noted, all of the nays came from Republicans.
The roll call from the Pacific Northwest was as follows:
Voting Aye: Democrats Suzan DelBene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Jim McDermott, Adam Smith, Denny Heck (WA), Suzanne Bonamici, Peter DeFazio, Earl Blumenauer, Kurt Schrader (OR); Republicans Jaime Herrera-Beutler, Doc Hastings, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Dave Reichert (WA), Don Young (AK), Steve Daines (MT), Mike Simpson (ID)
Voting Nay: Republicans Greg Walden (OR) and Raúl Labrador (ID)
Earlier today, NPI asked the Republican members of our region’s congressional delegation to vote to reopen the federal government and authorize the Department of the Treasury to pay the bills. Most did so, even Doc Hastings and Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who represent the most conservative districts in Washington State.
To them, we say thank you. The shutdown never should have happened in the first place, and Republicans were wrong to try to extract a ransom just for doing their jobs. But all of the Republicans in the aye column above deserve credit for their votes. They did what we asked them to do today, and we are grateful.
Greg Walden and Raúl Labrador, on the other hand, failed to do as we asked. They voted to keep the government closed and to bring on a catastrophic default. They may think or say they cast a principled vote. But in truth what they did was incredibly irresponsible and reckless. And that’s putting it mildly.
Walden, in particular, should be ashamed of himself. Labrador is a known member of the Ted Cruz fan club – his vote was certainly irresponsible, but it also wasn’t much of a surprise. Walden, however, is part of John Boehner’s circle. He is much more experienced and he should know better. He should have joined with Boehner and McMorris Rodgers in voting aye. We at NPI hope the progressive constituents in his district won’t let their fellow citizens forget about his vote tonight.
We cannot commend Nancy Pelosi enough for her leadership. Once again, she has shown what a capable organizer and legislator she is. She kept the entire House Democratic caucus together and made sure that every Democratic representative voted to reopen the federal government and pay America’s bills.
Her efforts and Harry Reid’s efforts resulted in a remarkable outcome: Total and complete Democratic unity in both houses of Congress. No defections. Not one. This is something that we have rarely seen, but it’s wonderful.
We can all sleep a bit easier tonight knowing that we will not have to wake up to scary headlines tomorrow morning and and the frightening prospect of our government defaulting on our nation’s debt.