Last night the Senate and House reached a deal that not only funds the government, but it also raises the debt ceiling. Breaching the debt ceiling would have had far reaching global economic consequences.
This continuing resolution funds the government through 15 January 2014 and raises the debt ceiling until 7 February 2014. So while I am breathing a sigh of relief that this crisis has ended, this is not over. While the deal does call for both the House and Senate to agree to a budget, I don't feel confident about both sides coming to an agreement until the last minute. This is in part due to previous behavior and history.
Expect in January there will be the threat of another shutdown and then the Friday after the Super Bowl there could be another threat of our government defaulting on its bills.
The government re-opening means that we return to relatively normal functioning for the time being. Our national parks and monuments are re-opened. The Veterans Administration can resume processing claims for health benefits and education. The Smithsonian tweeted this upon hearing the news that Congress was funding the government:
We’re back from the #shutdown! Smithsonian museums will reopen on Thursday and the @NationalZoo will reopen on Friday.
— Smithsonian (@smithsonian) October 17, 2013
Last night after his remarks to the press, a CNN reporter supposedly shouted out a question: "Are we doing this again in January?"
President Obama's response: No.
After the compromise on the debt ceiling that resulted in the sequester and other austerity proposals, President Obama vowed he was no going to go through this again. In every interview and press conference leading up to the Republican Shutdown, the President made it clear that he wasn't going to give in to the demands of Republicans in order to re-open the government. Opinion poll after opinion poll showed that people held the Republican Party accountable for this shutdown and rightfully so.
Republicans were trying to frame the debate as that government has no function in society and they wish to shrink it to where they can drown it in the bathtub. While there are concerns about what is the appropriate size of our government to reflect modern society, completely dismantling the government and opening it up by what they like and don't like is not the way to do it. In the last presidential election, that was one of the debates was about how much is government is involved in people's lives.
The truth is that it is involved in everyone's lives.
The tourists who visit the National Mall in Washington, DC to learn more about our country's history or just to go see stuff like I did in 2005 and again in 2006. Veterans, like myself, rely on the GI Bill in their pursuit of a college education. One of our largest public works programs since the end of World War II, the interstate highway system, was proposed by a REPUBLICAN President and passed by a DEMOCRATIC controlled Congress. Senior citizens depend on Medicare for health care coverage and social security so that they are not spending their remaining years in terrible poverty like they did before the establishment of the program. The FDA, one of the oldest government bureaucracies, ensures that there are quality standards for our food and medicine. And on the topic of food, there are people that receive food stamps.
The government shutdown created an inconvenience to someone. Federal employees were furloughed. Capitol police carried out their duty of protecting legislators and other officials without pay. I have some classes with some veterans like me and they were none too pleased about the government shutdown because it meant they weren't going to get paid for attending school. Social security checks might not have gotten mailed out. The financial sector was bracing for a potential default that could trigger an economic collapse that would have made the financial crisis of 2008 look like a hiccup.
If there is trouble with the financial sector... it will impact EVERYONE.
There is a lesson to be learned in all of this: We cannot be governing from crisis-to-crisis anymore. We have real problems to solve in this country as I highlighted in a previous posting.
President Obama is moving on from this and turning his attention towards passing Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR). Speaking from a purely electoral view, Republicans need this piece of legislation to pass if they are to exist as a viable party. In the last presidential election, Hispanics made up 10% of the electorate and strongly supported President Obama, 71-27. That demographic will grow over the next 30 years and will hold a large amount of influence both culturally and politically on our country. It would not shock me that when the 2016 Presidential Election arrives, the Hispanic vote comes close to 15% of the electorate and the White vote dips below 70%.
If CIR does not pass, it could lead to a strategic nightmare for the Republican Party that dooms their party for a generation from ever winning the White House.
If the Republican Party wishes to remain relevant in American politics, they need to start working for the American people. Not just the small percentage of voters that participate in their primaries and the people that donate to their campaigns, but everyone in this country.
Shutting down the government backfired horribly against House Republicans. They offered up a list of things such as approving the Keystone XL Pipeline, defunding/delaying "ObamaCare," and allowing businesses to deny contraception coverage to female employees. Congressional Democrats said we're not agreeing to these things.
And again, if the American people wanted those things, we would have voted for Mitt Romney in the last election. But WE didn't.... loudly.
As shown with Hurricane Sandy aid relief vote and the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, there is a path to getting legislation passed in the House without a majority of the House Republicans. As shown last night, Democrats voted in a unified block (198 votes). It takes 218 votes to pass legislation in the House, so you need to identify the 20 Republicans who are willing to buck their party. Last night 87 did so in order to prevent the country from defaulting on their loans and end this self inflicted wound.
For now, we can breathe a collective sigh of relief that this has been resolved.