Yesterday Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) met and subsequently announced that they were working toward a deal. The deal is reported to involve a continuing resolution through January 15, 2014, a debt ceiling hike through February 7, 2014 and a deadline of December 13, 2013 for holding a bicameral budget conference to discuss alternatives to sequestration. The deal does not include a delay of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) individual mandate (or completely defunding the ACA), but including income verification requirements for the ACA’s insurance subsidies is still on the table. The plan funds the government at $986 billion until January 15th, when a $21 billion cut pursuant to sequestration would go into effect.
A White House meeting with Congressional leadership scheduled for yesterday afternoon was postponed to allow Senate leadership more time to work out a deal.
The House passed one additional limited continuing resolution (CR) yesterday, to fund the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Indian Education, and the Indian Health Service. H.J.Res. 80 passed by a vote of 233-38.
Also yesterday the Department of Energy released guidance for furloughed workers regarding temporary employment. Under the guidance, retail and food service positions are okayed, but consulting is not.
The last few days have been characterized by talks and negotiations rather than votes on specific proposals to end the government shutdown and/or raise the debt ceiling before the October 17th deadline. Over the weekend, the House was in session on Saturday and the Senate was in session on Sunday.
Senate Republicans met with President Obama at the White House on Friday. Like the meeting with House Republicans, the meeting was considered cordial and productive, but without a resolution. It was also reported that President Obama seemed willing to negotiate, including on the medical device tax.
It was reported Sunday that the Senate remains at an impasse over funding levels and the duration of a debt ceiling increase. Despite seeming to have made some progress with Senator Susan Collins’ (R-ME) proposal late last week, the proposal now appears to be off the table due to disagreement over some of the details in the plan. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) spoke on Sunday but did not reach an agreement.
A few votes were recorded – on Friday the House passed a funding bill for the National Nuclear Security Administration (H.J. Res 76, vote of 248-176). On Saturday the Senate voted 53-45 against cloture on S. 1569, the Default Prevention Act of 2013, which would raise the debt limit through 2014 without any spending cuts.
Additionally, on Saturday morning, a number of House Members lined up to sign a discharge petition that would bring a “clean” continuing resolution to the floor for a vote.
On Saturday, New York reopened the Statue of Liberty, which is operated by the National Park Service, despite the shutdown.
President Obama hosted a number of high-ranking House Republicans at the White House Thursday afternoon to discuss the debt ceiling and an end to the shutdown. Reports were that the meeting was friendly but inconclusive. Speaker Boehner floated a proposal to extend the debt ceiling until November 22, which was rejected by President Obama, but it was a change in discussions and congressional staff continue to work on possible proposals. A group of Senate Republicans also have been working on a shutdown-debt ceiling package based on a proposal from Senator Susan Collins (R-ME).
The Senate acted on the House’s military survivor benefits continuing resolution (CR) and the President signed the legislation. This is the only “mini CR” to pass both chambers thus far. Yesterday the House passed another limited CR, for funding for border security (H.J.Res 79, passed 249-175).
The Senate will be in session on Saturday and will be holding a procedural vote to proceed on a clean debt limit increase. The House announced it will be in session and voting on Monday – Columbus Day.
At 12:14 p.m. yesterday, the Senate’s iconic Ohio Clock stopped running. The workers who would normally wind the clock have been furloughed, adding the clock to the list of shutdown casualties.
On Wednesday the House passed two additional limited funding bills – the 11th and 12th such piecemeal funding bills. H.J.Res 90 provides continued funding for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The bill passed with a vote of 252-172. H.J.Res 91, which passed unanimously (425-0, with 6 Members not voting), provides continued funding for military survivor benefits.
Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), House Budget Committee Chair, announced a plan yesterday for raising the debt ceiling and reopening the government. The plan provides a six-week, $118 billion debt limit increase accompanied by cuts. A stipulation to the plan is that both the House and Senate must agree to tax reform and entitlement reform during the six week period. A number of reports have noted that the plan neglects to address the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which has been a sticking point for House Republicans.
Additionally, the House announced on Wednesday that it would be in session and voting on Saturday, October 12th.
The government shutdown status quo continued on Tuesday.
The House voted to fund the Head Start program (H.J.Res 84, passed 248-168) and to pay federal employees working during the shutdown on time (H.J.Res. 89, passed 420-0).
The House also passed H.R. 3273, which would establish a bipartisan, bicameral deficit reduction working group. As with the mini-CR strategy, the Senate and President Obama have expressed disinterest in this approach.
Still facing a stalemate, on Tuesday, October 8, House Republicans discussed plans to bring to the floor HR 3273, legislation sponsored by Reps. Sessions (R-TX), Woodall (R-GA), and Burgess (R-TX) that would establish a short-term bipartisan, bicameral working group to attempt a deal on funding the federal government and addressing the debt limit. The House Rules Committee approved and reported out the bill on Tuesday.
The proposal for such a working group showcases how broken negotiations are between Congress and the Administration as the country spirals closer to the deadline on the debt ceiling, just one-week away. Memories of the failed Supercommittee of 2011 are still fresh in the minds of those on the Hill and those who tried to influence the group when the budget negotiations broke down back then. However, unlike that Supercommittee, the proposed working group would simply work as a short-term negotiating body and have no ultimate authority, as its recommendations would be voted on by Congress through normal process.
President Obama and Congressional Democrats continued to oppose any negotiations – working group or otherwise - unless and until congressional Republicans agree to reopen the government and no longer threaten defaulting on the debt ceiling.
Yesterday, the House passed the latest in the series of limited funding bills, voting to fund the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) at post-sequestration levels. This resolution was approved by a vote of 235-162.
It was also reported yesterday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may begin recalling some of its employees to work. CDC has been operating with 32 percent of its staff for the last week. This announcement comes after the FDA issued a public health alert regarding a salmonella outbreak on the West Coast.
A week into the federal government shutdown, the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that 51% Americans disapprove of how President Obama is handling the budget negotiations while 45% approve, a slight improvement from the last week in September (41% approve to 50% disapprove). Americans also overwhelmingly disapprove of how both Congressional Democrats (61% disapprove) and Republicans (70% disapprove) are handling the negotiations.
It’s not too late to RSVP for tomorrow’s “2013 Regulatory and Economic Outlook” webinar featuring Drinker Biddle’s Lobbying and Advocacy Team Senior Government Relations Director Jodie Curtis, Drinker Biddle Counsel Heather B. Abrigo, and Drinker Biddle Director of Growth Strategies Nick Araco.
The webinar, to be held at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, October 9, 2013, will touch upon implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or health reform) and in particular what employers need to be thinking about, the debt ceiling debate, sequestration, and the current legislative and regulatory environments. For more information or to register, see http://www.drinkerbiddle.com/Register/2013-Regulatory-and-Economic-Outlook?Section=Events.
On Thursday the House continued passing a series of limited continuing resolutions (CRs) to fund specific sections of the government. The House passed a resolution providing funding for veteran’s benefits by a vote of 259-157 and a bill to pay military reservists by a vote of 265-160. The House Rules Committee met yesterday to pass rules for 10 additional small CRs. The Senate has not acted on these “mini-CRs” – a few Republican Senators tried to seek unanimous consent for these bills yesterday but Democratic leadership attempted to amend each bill to replicate last week’s Senate-passed CR.
Normal business was briefly suspended when a car tried to breach road barriers outside the Capitol and Congress went from shutdown to lockdown.
Congress is expected to be in session this weekend, according to reports yesterday. It was also announced yesterday night that Secretary of State John Kerry will now be traveling to Indonesia and Brunei instead of President Obama.
On Wednesday, the House resumed debate on bills to fund certain limited parts of the federal government – these bills were considered but did not pass the House on Tuesday and the House decided to reconsider them under different rules and procedures. Tuesday evening the House passed three separate funding measures – to fund the DC government (taken by voice vote, or no roll call), to fund the National Institutes of Health (NIH) (254-171), and to fund the national parks (252-173). The bills have been sent to the Senate, which has indicated they are not interested in passing individual spending measures, according to reports.
House and Senate leaders met at the White House yesterday evening. Present at the meeting were President Obama, Vice President Biden, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker of the House John Boehner, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. It was reported that no deal was struck as a result of the meeting and that Obamacare continues to be the sticking point in negotiations.
With the shutdown lingering, President Obama announced yesterday that he will shorten a planned trip to Asia this weekend, and will reevalute the entire trip later this week.
On the non-shutdown front, House Democrats released draft immigration legislation and the House passed H.R. 3233, which would extend the period for special immigrant status to Iraqis employed by the U.S. government.
And the shutdown continues…