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Now on to the news of the day, which is so strange that I hardly know how to begin. Did we really just go through more than two weeks of a hostage drama with supposed grown-up elected officials threatening to bring down the U.S. economy–and along with it the global economy–unless the President and the legislature agree to repeal a legitimate law that has been upheld by the Supreme Court? Or failing that, deny birth control to adult women?
Yes, yes we did. Somehow, truly insane people have tried to take over the government. They’ve been defeated for now, but in only a few months we could go through this again! This article at Bloomberg Businessweek pretty much sums it up: Congress Ends Impasse to Be Revisited in January.
After the partisan passions and heated rhetoric, the disruptions of a government shutdown and displays of dysfunction, Congress did what it could have done weeks ago: voted to fund the government and lift the debt limit.
The passage last night by wide margins — an 81-18 vote in the Democratic-led Senate, followed by a 285-144 vote in the Republican-controlled House — allows the U.S. to avoid default and ends the shutdown that began Oct. 1 and has taken $24 billion out of the U.S. economy.
President Barack Obama signed the bill just after midnight, according to a White House statement. The measure puts government workers back on the job starting today and permits the U.S. to pay its debts, benefits and salaries.
Lawmakers didn’t show they’re any closer to resolving the underlying issues of spending priorities and deficit-reduction measures, particularly in the House where a shrinking political middle makes compromise elusive as the latest events show.
The focus now shifts to a new series of deadlines — the first for budget negotiations with a Dec. 13 target — that set up more rounds of political combat over taxes and spending on programs including Social Security and Medicare. The deal funds the government at Republican-backed spending levels through Jan. 15, 2014, and suspends the debt limit through Feb. 7.
But according to CBS News, Republicans still plan to keep trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
[Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell claimed victory for Republicans in the fact that the sequester cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act were preserved, and assured the party he is committed to fighting to repeal Obamacare.
“Republicans remain determined to repeal this terrible law, but for today the relief we hope for is to reopen the government, avoid default and protect the historic cuts we achieve under the Budget Control Act,” he said. “This is far less than many of us had hoped for, frankly, but its far better than what some had sought. Now it’s time for Republicans to unite behind other crucial goals.”
Ted Cruz plans to continue the hopeless fight against Obama’s health care law. From Mediaite: Ted Cruz Slams ‘Lousy Deal,’ Pledges Obamacare Fight Is Far From Over on Hannity.
Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, the conservative tag-team that led the fight on Obamacare from the beginning, joinedSean Hannity Wednesday night before the House voted to officially end the government shutdown, both of them slamming the compromise deal and promising to continue fighting the health care law. Cruz called it a “lousy deal” and the latest example of the “Washington establishment selling the people down the river.”
Watch the video at the link if you can stomach it.
Meanwhile, back in Texas some folks aren’t so happy with their new Senator. The Houston Chronicle yesterday expressed regret for having endorsed him. From HuffPo:
Nearly one year removed from its decision to endorse Ted Cruz, the Houston Chronicle reflected back on that choice in a Tuesday op-ed, admitting that he has not lived up to the paper’s expectations.
In a piece entitled “Why We Miss Kay Bailey Hutchison,” the newspaper reflected back on how Hutchison had an “extraordinary understanding of the importance of reaching across the aisle when necessary.” That skill has not been displayed by Cruz or senior Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), according to the Chronicle….
In an Oct. 18, 2012 op-ed, the Chronicle explained that its endorsement of Cruz was premised on him following the example of previous senators, including Democrats Lloyd Bentsen, who went on to serve as Treasury Secretary and Lyndon B. Johnson, who later became president.
“We expect Cruz as the senator from the Lone Star State to spend his energies standing up for Texans of every background and economic station, representing their best interests from health care and education to energy, space and medicine,” the paper wrote.
It might be time for Ted Cruz to get a dog.
Because as the saying goes, if you want a friend in Washington, that’s what you do. And by the time Cruz’s crusade to defund Obamacare finally crashed to a halt Wednesday, the Texas senator had precious few friends left.
The government shutdown alienated colleagues in both parties. It generated fresh animosity toward the tea party and a flurry of recriminations toward Cruz. Voter support for the Republican Party plunged….
Cruz willed himself to the center of the fight. For months, he predicted that Democrats would cave if Republicans stood together to strip funding from the health care law. He dramatized the cause with a 21-hour overnight Senate speech, soaring to unusual prominence for a freshman senator. He refrained from using the risk of a catastrophic default on U.S. debt as leverage. Still, the defeat was so resounding that it left his political future in doubt.
The vast majority of his colleagues repudiated his tactics. Some accused him of promoting himself more than any attainable goals or the health of his party.
Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the 2008 GOP presidential nominee, called the last few weeks an “agonizing odyssey.”
“This has been one of the most shameful chapters I’ve seen here,” he said, lamenting damage to the GOP for little gain. “We’re in a hole. We have to dig out. We weren’t going to defund Obamacare, and we weren’t going to keep the government shut down.”
On the other hand, Mitch McConnell didn’t walk away empty-handed. WFPL in Louisville reports: McConnell-Reid Deal Includes $3 Billion Earmark for Kentucky Project.
Language in a draft of the McConnell-Reid deal (see page 13, section 123) provided to WFPL News shows a provision that increases funding for the massive Olmsted Dam Lock in Paducah, Ky., from $775 million to nearly $2.9 billion.
The dam is considered an important project for the state and region in regards to water traffic along the Ohio River.
As The Courier-Journal’s James Bruggers reported in 2011, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said they needed about $2.1 billion for the locks due to “stop and go funding.”
Asked about the additional funding in the proposal, McConnell spokesman Robert Steurer directed all questions to lawmakers who worked on the bill directly.
Hostage-taking, extortion, and bribery. It’s the Republican way.
In the midst of the madness last night, Diane Reedy, a House stenographer had to be dragged off the House floor after she grabbed a microphone during the vote and began ranting about Freemasons. CNN:
Amid all the chaos of the last-minute deal in Washington, there was an unusual moment on the House floor moments after the bill passed.
A House stenographer and well-known employee calmly took to a microphone and began screaming.
“Do not be deceived. God shall not be mocked. A House divided cannot stand,” she said, according to a House GOP aide. After a few seconds, she was escorted out by the Sergeant-at-Arms, but an audio recording by Todd Zwillich of Public Radio International captured the rest of her rant.
“He will not be mocked, He will not be mocked, (don’t touch me) He will not be mocked. The greatest deception here, is that this is not one nation under God. It never was. Had it been… it would not have been… No. it would not have been… the Constitution would not have been written by Free Masons… and go against God. You cannot serve two masters. You cannot serve two masters. Praise be to God, Lord Jesus Christ.”
According to Dana Bash, the woman is well liked on Capitol Hill. She was taken to a hospital for a psychological evaluation. I hope she will be okay; but frankly, her behavior is no crazier than that of some House members. For example, insane Texas Rep. Louis Gomert claimed yesterday that Sen. John McCain is a supporter of al Qaeda. Raw Story reports McCain’s response:
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) shrugged off Rep. Louie Gohmert’s (R-TX) insinuation that he was an “al Qaeda supporter” in an interview with NBC Nightly News host Brian Williams on Wednesday, while conceding to an increasing amount of polarization between lawmakers.
“On that particular issue, sometimes comments like that are made out of malice,” McCain told Williams. “But if someone has no intelligence, I don’t view it as being a malicious statement. You can’t respond to that kind of thing.”
And this wasn’t just an isolated incident.
Gohmert made a thinly-veiled reference to McCain during an Oct. 11 appearance at the Value Voters Summit, mocking his trip to meet with rebel leaders in Syria by calling him, “a guy that’s been to Syria and supported Al Qaeda and the rebels.”
The two also clashed in 2012, with Gohmert calling McCain and other GOP lawmakers“numbnuts” after McCain criticized Gohmert and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) for what he called “specious and degrading attacks” against former State Department aide Huma Abedin.
Can we get Gomert a psych eval? Please?
Just a couple more links on reactions to the insanity in DC:
From the Wall Street Journal: Business Voices Frustration With GOP.
The budget stalemate that had the U.S. flirting with default has left business and the Republican Party, longtime political allies, at a crossroads.
In interviews with representatives of companies large and small, executives predicted a change in how business would approach politics. They didn’t foresee a new alignment with Democrats but forecast backing challengers to tea-party conservatives in GOP primaries, increasing political engagement with centrist Republicans and, for some, disengaging with politics altogether.
Many business executives say they were dismayed that some Republicans didn’t heed their warnings that closing the government and risking default would hurt the U.S. economy. Others expressed disgust with Washington politics in general. All said the crisis could have been averted with a more pragmatic approach.
The decadeslong relationship between American business and the GOP is certainly likely to endure, with business still feeling a kinship and shared goals with many in the party, including a push for lower taxes and lighter regulation.
But the conversation among businesses is “characterized by tremendous frustration and angst,” said Dirk Van Dongen, president of the National Association of Wholesale-Retailers, a trade group. “Because at the end of the day, the system is supposed to produce results, and the failure to produce results has consequences.”
“The U.S. can give a sigh of relief for now but the New Year could bring a dangerous sense of déjà vu,” Luke Bartholomew, investment analyst at Aberdeen Asset Management, said.
Equity markets in the U.S. and Asia initially welcomed the last-minute deal which pulled the world’s biggest economy back from the brink of a historic default, but the rally ran out of steam as the longer-term implications sank in….
The temporary nature of the agreement and longer-term worries that the debt ceiling risks would become a structural drag on the economy also weighed on debt markets.
That view was shared by Chinese credit agency Dagong, which downgraded the U.S. sovereign rating to A- from A with a negative outlook, driving further dollar losses.
The 10-year benchmark Treasury note yield slipped to 2.65 percent from around 2.68 percent late in New York. While U.S. Treasury bill futures had gained 0.1 percent.
“It casts dark clouds over the economy – politics are now the main drag for growth in the U.S,” Rabobank strategist Philip Marey said.
Read more at the link.
Finally, the Center for American Progress has released a report on Replacing the Sequester. Check it out at the link.
Now it’s your turn. What stories are you following today? What reactions are you seeing to yesterday’s agreement? Please post your own thoughts as well as your links on any topic in the comment thread.