Nevada County’s representative in the nation’s capitol,Rep. Doug LaMalfa, was among 144 House Republicans who voted against the legislation that Congress passed and sent to a waiting President Barack Obama legislation late Wednesday night, in order to avoid a threatened national default and end the 16-day partial government shutdown, the culmination of an epic political drama that placed the U.S. economy at risk.
The Senate voted first, a bipartisan 81-18 earlier in the evening. That cleared the way for a final 285-144 vote on the legislation in the Republican-controlled House about two hours later, which hewed strictly to the terms Obama laid down when the twin crises erupted more than three weeks ago.
“I could not support the bill tonight because it fails to address our long-term debt crisis or even attempt to balance the budget in the short term,” said LaMalfa — whose home is in Richvale — in a statement.
The legislation would permit the Treasury to borrow normally through Feb. 7, or perhaps a month longer, and fund the government through Jan. 15. More than 2 million federal workers would be paid — those who had remained on the job and those who had been furloughed.
After the Senate approved the measure, Obama hailed the vote and said he would sign it immediately after it reached his desk. “We’ll begin reopening our government immediately, and we can begin to lift this cloud of uncertainty from our businesses and the American people.”
Later, in the House, Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky., said, “After two long weeks, it is time to end this government shutdown. It’s time to take the threat of default off the table. It’s time to restore some sanity to this place.”
The stock market surged higher at the prospect of an end to the crisis that also had threatened to shake confidence in the U.S. economy overseas.
Republicans conceded defeat after a long struggle. “We fought the good fight. We just didn’t win,” conceded House Speaker John Boehner as lawmakers lined up to vote on a bill that includes nothing for GOP lawmakers who had demand to eradicate or scale back Obama’s signature health care overhaul.
“The compromise we reached will provide our economy with the stability it desperately needs,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, declaring that the nation “came to the brink of disaster” before sealing an agreement.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who negotiated the deal with Reid, emphasized that it preserved a round of spending cuts negotiated two years ago with Obama and Democrats. As a result, he said, “government spending has declined for two years in a row” for the first time since the Korean War. “And we’re not going back on this agreement,” he added.
Only a temporary truce, the measure set a time frame of early this winter for the next likely clash between Obama and the Republicans over spending and borrowing.
But for now, government was lurching back to life. Within moments of the House’s vote, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, director of the Office of Management and Budget, issued a statement saying “employees should expect to return to work in the morning.”
After weeks of gridlock, the measure had support from the White House, most if not all Democrats in Congress and many Republicans fearful of the economic impact of a default.
Boehner and the rest of the top GOP leadership told their rank and file in advance they would vote for the measure. In the end, Republicans split 144 against and 87 in favor. All 198 voting Democrats were supporters.
“This bill amounts to getting new credit cards to replace maxed-out cards, all of which future generations will have to pay off,” LaMalfa said. “While I’m pleased that the crisis has been averted, the situation could have been avoided if the President and Senate had negotiated in earnest prior to reaching this point.”
Final passage came in plenty of time to assure Obama’s signature before the administration’s 11:59 p.m. Thursday deadline.
That was when Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said the government would reach the current $16.7 trillion debt limit and could no longer borrow to meet its obligations.
Tea party-aligned lawmakers who triggered the shutdown that began on Oct. 1 said they would vote against the legislation. Significantly, though, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and others agreed not to use the Senate’s cumbersome 18th-century rules to slow the bill’s progress.
McConnell made no mention of the polls showing that the shutdown and flirtation with default have sent Republicans’ public approval plummeting and have left the party badly split nationally as well as in his home state of Kentucky.
More broadly, national tea party groups and their allies underscored the internal divide. The Club for Growth urged lawmakers to vote against the congressional measure, and said it would factor in the organization’s decision when it decides which candidates to support in midterm elections next year.
Even so, support for Boehner appeared solid inside his fractious rank and file. “There are no plots, plans or rumblings that I know of. And I was part of one in January, so I’d probably be on the whip list for that,” said Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce came out in favor of the bill.
Simplicity at the end, there was next to nothing in the agreement beyond authorization for the Treasury to resume borrowing and funding for the government to reopen.
House and Senate negotiators are to meet this fall to see if progress is possible on a broad deficit-reduction compromise of the type that has proved elusive in the current era of divided government.
Additionally, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is to be required to produce a report stating that her agency is capable of verifying the incomes of individuals who apply for federal subsidies under the health care law known as Obamacare.
Obama had insisted repeatedly he would not pay “ransom” by yielding to Republican demands for significant changes to the health care overhaul in exchange for funding the government and permitting Treasury the borrowing latitude to pay the nation’s bills.
Other issues fell by the wayside in a final deal, including a Republican proposal for the suspension of a medical device tax in Obamacare and a Democratic call to delay a fee on companies for everyone who receives health coverage under an employer-sponsored plan.
The withering of Republicans’ Obamacare-related demands defined the arc of the struggle that has occupied virtually all of Congress’ time for the past three weeks.
The Union’s Christopher Rosacker contributed to this report.