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Legislative Update for October 18, 2013

By October 18, 2013Legislative Updates
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This week, after a 16-day shutdown, Congress reopened the government.While there will be much hoopla about the winners and losers of this shutdown, the reality is that we need to move forward to rein in Washington’s out-of-control deficit spending and address entitlement reform, which is the long-term driver of our debt.

Recap: The Senate was in session over the weekend, and Members continued to debate a compromise to reopen the government. As talks fell through in the House late Tuesday night, negotiations shifted from the House to the Senate. During that time, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) put final touches on a bipartisan “deal” that was eventually unveiled, passed through both Chambers of Congress, and signed into law, ending the government shutdown late Wednesday night.

What was included in this so-called deal? 

  • Funds the government through January 15, 2014: The government was funded at Budget Control Act (BCA) levels, which keeps the sequester in place.  Senate Democrats and the president wanted to use the shutdown and threat of a default to break the BCA spending caps.  The across-the-board spending cuts are the only cuts we have at this time against a growing 17-trillion-dollar debt.
  • Extends the Debt Limit to February 7, 2014: Prevents the government from defaulting on its bills.
  • ObamaCare Income Verification: Requires the administration to confirm and report to Congress that those qualifying for ObamaCare exchanges are, in fact, eligible for subsidies based on the Health and Human Service’s income verification process.
  • Budget Committee: Conferees will be appointed to a budget committee so the House and Senate can negotiate ways to improve entitlement programs and discuss tax reform.

“Pork” added: After the legislation passed Congress, many found there were added funds that likely wouldn’t have gotten through by a regular legislative process. One of those “added” was three billion dollars for the Olmsted Locks and Dam project that crosses between Mississippi and Kentucky.

Looking forward: The fiscal fight has not ended; it has merely been postponed until January, when the government funding runs out.We will probably see another battle in February, when we hit our debt ceiling again.The temporary shutdown did not resolve the fundamental issues of spending and deficits that divide the Republican and Democrat parties.