WASHINGTON — It’s over.
On a 285-144, the House of Representatives voted late Wednesday night to approve the compromise negotiated by Senate leaders and end the first government shutdown in 17 years.
The Senate bill had passed earlier in the day with 81 senators voting yes, and 18 voting against. John Cornyn of Texas — the Senate’s No. 2 Republican — voted against the bill, as did Marco Rubio, Mike Lee and Ted Cruz.
In the House, 87 Republicans joined 198 Democrats to pass the bill. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and 143 other Republicans opposed it.
The House had one last chance to use its power of the purse to slow down Obamacare and keep the national debt from rising.
But House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, gave up on that battle.
“We fought the good fight. We just didn’t win,” he told a Cincinnati radio station.
Boehner did not explain exactly why he had to stop fighting, other than to say, “We did everything we could to get them (Democrats) to the table to negotiate,” but, “They just kept saying no. No, no, no.”
The speaker said he would allow the bill Senate leaders crafted Wednesday to raise the debt ceiling and reopen the government to come to the House floor.
That all but guaranteed a combination of House Democrats and Republican “moderates” could pass the measure without a majority of Republican votes.
Allowing the bill to come to the floor meant Boehner was prepared to violate the so-called “Hastert Rule,” an agreement not to allow a vote on legislation that does not have the support of the majority of Republicans in the House. Boehner had vowed in recent weeks not to violate the Hastert Rule on any immigration legislation.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., claimed now is not the time to address concerns about Obamacare, despite admitting it is costing jobs, “ravaging” the economy and had a disastrous roll-out that “is a sign of things to come.”
White House wins
The establishment media was quick to portray the Democrats as the victors in the government shutdown showdown.
But White House press secretary Jay Carney said there “are no winners here.”
“We said that from the beginning, and we’re going to say it right up to the end because it’s true. The American people have paid a price for this,” said Carney at his daily briefing Wednesday.
However, a senior administration official told the Wall Street Journal earlier this month: “We are winning. … It doesn’t really matter to us” how long the shutdown lasts, “because what matters is the end result.”
Out of Options
House Republicans met to discuss the situation Wednesday afternoon, but conservatives had run out of options.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, told reporters he would not use a procedural move to block a vote on the bill.
“There’s nothing to be gained from delaying this vote one day or two days,” Cruz said.
The senator and House conservatives had been trying to obtain concessions from Democrats to defund, or at least derail, Obamacare.
“The United States Senate and the Washington establishment are doing nothing to provide relief to the American people,” said Cruz.
But he added: “I never had any intention of delaying the timing of this vote.”
The debt deal struck by the Senate will not lower the debt.
Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., called it an agreement that “prevents these frequent crises” and said this is “not a time for pointing fingers or blame,” but a time for “reconciliation.”
GOP negotiators agreed to a bill that would raise the debt ceiling until Feb 7.
It would also end the government shutdown in effect since Oct. 1 by including a $986 billion spending bill to keep the government open until Jan. 15.
Back to negotiations
The idea is to buy time for Democrats and Republicans to hash out a long-term budget deal by Dec. 13, by convening a bipartisan conference committee.
Reid said the conference committees will be led by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Minn., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and that negotiations would be “really hard, but I think we can get it done.”
He added: “We’re going to do everything we can to change the atmosphere in the Senate” to accomplish that goal.
McConnell gives up
The measure to which McConnell agreed does little to slow down the implementation of Obamacare, as it contains just a single provision addressing the unpopular health care law, one that would require verification of income for those receiving subsidies.
Even though McConnell conceded Obamacare is killing jobs and crippling the economy, he claimed the immediate objective was to reopen the government with a bill that does “far less than some had hoped for, but now it is time for Republicans to unite behind other important goals.”
It was Americans’ concerns about Obamacare and the nation’s spiraling debt that prompted GOP leaders to confront the administration in the first place.
Boehner began losing support from House conservatives on Tuesday, when they rejected a plan he presented because it did not stall Obamacare.
That put the ball back in the Senate’s court and prompted some Democrats to urge Republicans to throw in the towel.
“You have two options — you can get bowled over by the Senate or you can get bowled over by the Senate,” said one Democrat aide.
By bending to Democrat’s demands in Senate negotiations, McConnell may be putting his career at risk, if his constituents believe a primary opponent would be more likely to fight for conservative values.
Default a disaster?
Negotiators were working under a Thursday deadline to avoid a default on the nation’s debt by raising the debt ceiling.
However, it is not at all clear that a default would happen or that it would be a disaster if it did.
As WND has reported, a growing number of economists and politicians have said President Obama is factually wrong when he claims the United States is risking default by not raising the debt ceiling.
They also insist Obama is mistaken in claiming that failure to raise the debt ceiling would be a disaster, or as he put it, “insane, catastrophic, chaos.”
Obama has repeatedly insisted that not raising the debt ceiling would mean the United States could not pay the bills it has already accumulated – the payments Congress has already authorized – and would result in a default.
That’s not true, wrote University of Georgia economics professor Jeffrey Dorfman for Forbes.
“Reaching the debt ceiling does not mean that the government will default on the outstanding government debt,” he said. “In fact, the U.S. Constitution forbids defaulting on the debt (14th Amendment, Section 4), so the government is not allowed to default even if it wanted to.”
Dorfman said that if the debt ceiling is not raised by the deadline, the government will be forced to prioritize its expenses and keep its spending under the revenue the government collects.
“In simple terms, the government would have to spend an amount less than or equal to what it earns. Just like ordinary Americans have to do in their everyday lives.”
In addition to threatening an “economic catastrophe” worldwide if Congress does not raise the debt ceiling, Obama has repeatedly insisted raising it “does not add a dime to our debt.”
That’s also “not true,” wrote Dorfman.
“An increase in the debt ceiling allows the government to continue to run a budget deficit, which by simple accounting means that the national debt will increase. Not raising the debt ceiling does not mean defaulting on the current debt, but rather that no new debt can be incurred,” he wrote.
“Raising the debt ceiling is like having the credit limit increased on your credit card,” he explained.
The establishment media even began to pay attention to those who contend there is another side to the president’s story, as more and more lawmakers came forward to dispute the claims that it is necessary to raise the debt ceiling to avoid a disastrous default.
The New York Times has discovered “a surprisingly broad section of the Republican Party is convinced that a threat once taken as economic fact may not exist — or at least may not be so serious.”
The Times noted that some question the Treasury’s drop-dead deadline of Oct. 17.
Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., whom the paper refers to as “no one’s idea of a bomb thrower,” was not “buying the apocalyptic warnings that a default on United States government debt would lead to a global economic cataclysm,” the paper said
The Time found Republicans who believe “there is no deadline at all — that daily tax receipts would be more than enough to pay off Treasury bonds as they come due.”
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., charged it is “irresponsible of the president to try to scare the markets.”
“If you don’t raise your debt ceiling, all you’re saying is, ‘We’re going to be balancing our budget.’ So if you put it in those terms, all these scary terms of, ‘Oh my goodness, the world’s going to end’ — if we balance the budget, the world’s going to end? Why don’t we spend what comes in?”
Paul told the Times that a proposal to not raising the debt ceiling in those terms “sounds like a pretty reasonable idea” to the American public.
Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., said: “There’s no way to default on Oct. 17. We will have enough money to make interest payments. The issue is, how do we restructure our government so we don’t have to keep hitting the debt ceiling?”
Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., told a disbelieving MSNBC anchor there is “zero chance the U.S. government is going to default on its debt.”
Follow Garth Kant on Twitter @DCgarth