Offering daily news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

U.S. Senate votes overwhelmingly to reopen federal government and pay America’s bills

At long last, we finally have some decent news out of the Other Washington.

By a vote of eighty-one to eighteen, the United States Senate has voted to approve legislation that reopens the federal government through mid-January and allows the U.S. Department of the Treasury to pay America’s bills through mid-February. More than half of the Senate Republican caucus joined with every single one of the Senate’s Democrats and the chamber’s two independents to pass the bill.

“I want to thank the leaders of both parties for getting us to this point,” said President Barack Obama in an appearance at the White House following the vote, referring to Senators Harry Reid of Nevada and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

“Once this agreement arrives on my desk, I will sign it immediately. 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.”

“I’ll have more to say about this tomorrow. And I’ve got some thoughts about how we can move forward in the remainder of the year and stay focused on the job at hand, because there is a lot of work ahead of us, including our need to earn back the trust of the American people that has been lost over the last few weeks. And we can begin to do that by addressing the real issues that they care about.”

The Pacific Northwest roll call on H.R. 2275, as amended, was as follows:

Voting Aye: Democrats Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray (WA); Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley (OR); Mark Begich (AK); Jon Tester and Max Baucus (MT); Republican Lisa Murkowski (AK)

Voting Nay: Republicans Jim Risch and Mike Crapo (ID)

Jeers to the Idaho delegation for being among the eighteen intransigent Republicans who voted no. Even Mitch McConnell and John Thune voted to avert a default. But Jim Risch and Mike Crapo? Nah, they’re not interested in preventing an economic calamity from befalling this country and the world community.

Washington’s own Patty Murray, the fourth highest ranking member of the Senate Democratic caucus and the chairwoman of the Committee on the Budget, issued a lengthy statement following the Senate vote. She said:

Tonight I share with every Washington State family a deep sense of relief that this embarrassing episode is nearing an end.

These past few weeks have seen the dysfunction in Washington D.C. seep its way into the lives and livelihoods of families in ways that are completely unacceptable and that were entirely preventable.

Families across our state have every right to be angry with the fact they’ve been made victims by an unnecessary crisis that they didn’t create and had no control over.

I hope that if any lesson comes of these last few weeks it’s that the American people will not tolerate being held hostage and that the constant cycle of governing by crisis must come to an end.

Thankfully, as part of the agreement to end this crisis, Republicans have now finally agreed to the budget conference committee that I have been asking for over the last six months. I am looking forward to the big challenge that bridging the significant differences between the House and Senate budgets presents, I am absolutely committed to finding common ground, and I hope Republicans are too.

I first ran for the Senate because I saw a Congress that was disconnected from the lives of my neighbors and friends.

I believed then – as I continue to do now – that bringing the struggles, successes, and hopes of regular Washington state families to the debates in Washington D.C. helps create a government that is more responsive to their needs.

Today we find ourselves at a similar crossroads, where so many Americans rightly feel like their voices aren’t being heard. Too often regular Americans’ calls for bipartisanship and progress are being hijacked by whoever yells the loudest or causes the biggest commotion. Despite all that we have in common, our politics continues to be more and more defined by what sets us apart.

My hope is that in the weeks and months ahead we can heal many of the partisan divides that keep us from addressing the big challenges we face, including returning our focus to creating jobs and improving our economy. But most importantly, I hope that we heed the call of every American to do everything we can to ensure we never repeat the damaging crises we are on the verge of emerging from.

We expect a statement from Senator Maria Cantwell soon and will update this post when we get it. We are also hoping to get reaction from Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley of Oregon. Most senators have furloughed their staffs, so they are not operating normally due to the shutdown.

H.R. 2275 (as amended) now moves to the U.S. House of Representatives. John Boehner and his deputies have signaled they will put the bill on a fast track to passage so that it can get to President Obama’s desk quickly. It’s not clear how many Republican votes Boehner will be able to deliver, but it’s expected that Democrats will provide the overwhelming majority of votes to reopen the government and allow Treasury to pay the nation’s bills.