All six of Arkansas’ Congressional delegation voted for a Senate-sponsored measure to re-open the federal government and to extend the nation’s debt ceiling limit after nearly three weeks of high-stakes political wrangling.
The measure approved by the U.S. House and U.S. Senate would fund the federal government and increase the Treasury Department’s borrowing power to $16.7 trillion. President Obama signed the bill into law late Wednesday night.
Key provisions of the bill:
• Keeping the government funded, at Budget Control Act spending levels, through Jan. 15, 2014
• Extending the debt limit until Feb. 7, 2014
• Requiring income verification for recipients of subsidies under Obamacare’s newly-established exchanges
• Providing back-pay for furloughed workers
• Allowing Congress to vote to disapprove of the debt ceiling increase and require President Obama to veto that legislation if it passes in order to raise the debt ceiling.
The U.S. Senate approved the law on an 81-18 vote with Arkansas Senators John Boozman (R) and Mark Pryor (D), voting with the majority.
“Today the Senate reached a responsible agreement to reopen our government and prevent our nation from defaulting on its obligations. I was proud to be part of the bipartisan coalition of senators that laid the groundwork for this common-sense solution,” said Pryor. “As I’ve said before, if we want to get things done in Washington, we must work together. We cannot allow a few irresponsible members of U.S. House of Representatives to play games with our nation’s future. It’s time to turn off the rhetoric and get back to work on our priorities—creating jobs, growing our economy, and responsibly reducing our debt and cutting spending. This agreement gives us the blueprint to accomplish these goals.”
“The government shutdown and the debt ceiling are two major issues with very serious impacts. Already, Arkansas’s seniors, veterans, families and businesses are feeling the effects of shutdown. This bipartisan solution ends the unnecessary pains caused by the shutdown and avoids the potentially dramatic hit to the savings and pensions of hardworking Arkansans,” Boozman said. “This agreement extends through the first of the year which allows us to continue negotiating on debt and deficit reduction while chipping away at Obamacare.”
Obamacare, or the federal health care law, was the major bargaining chip that House Republicans used as leverage to begin the broader budget debate weeks ago. But with Democrats controlling the Senate and White House, a path to victory was never evident.
In the end, the measure that cleared Congress last night was considered a “clean resolution” but it could result in a replay of the past few weeks’ politics soon after the first of the new year as the federal budget and the debt ceiling limit will have to be addressed in January and February. Health care politics are unlikely to have cooled by the new year, too.
The House of Representatives passed the measure 285-144 with 87 Republicans voting with a united, unanimous Democratic caucus. All four of Arkansas’ Congressmen supported the bill.
“I supported legislation tonight to prevent Barack Obama from risking a default on our national debt and to open parts of the government that were temporarily shut down,” said U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle, who is challenging Sen. Mark Pryor for the U.S. Senate. “This bill is far from perfect, but it preserves annual spending caps and allows for more negotiation to stop Washington’s out-of-control spending. Senate Democrats have fought hard for more spending and to protect Obamacare at all costs. They even voted to keep Congress’s special Obamacare exemption rather than keeping the government open. I’ll use the time provided by this bill to keep fighting for Arkansas taxpayers who also want to be protected from Obamacare, as well as real spending reforms.”
“I appreciate the work and effort that has been put forth by House and Senate leaders that will allow for the government to reopen and prevent the full faith and credit of the United States to be put in question,” said U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro. “I believe that this agreement does not end any effort by myself, or other conservatives in the House or Senate, to demand that tax-and-spend politicians answer the question as to whether or not Congress should speed ahead with $1.3 trillion in new entitlement spending in the middle of a debt crisis while programs like Social Security and Medicare are on the verge of bankruptcy.”
“Most of the time, my colleagues and I in the House are concerned about Senate Democrats blocking nearly everything we pass, but, after the House failed yesterday to reach consensus on the kind of commonsense solution I preferred, I have to be realistic: the Senate’s proposal is not the bill I would write, but it is the only viable path forward. At the end of the day, no speech changes the number of votes in the House or the Senate,” said U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Little Rock. “I support the Senate’s bipartisan bill to end the shutdown and protect our country’s credit rating. I’ve said from the beginning that shutting down the government is terrible policy, and risking the full faith and credit of the United States will do nothing to help dig our children out from under the massive burden of debt that is crushing their future. My focus has always been on working with anyone who is willing to find a real, long-term solution to Washington’s spending addiction, and this short-term bill is a responsible—but definitely imperfect—step toward that goal.”
“I am disappointed there has been little accomplished during this shutdown,” said U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers. “Obamacare hasn’t been significantly changed, a lot of pain has been inflicted on innocent Americans and, with this vote, we’ve all but assured the nation another round of brinksmanship after the first of the year. But it is important that our country honor its credit obligations, move toward regular order, and resolve the budget issues plaguing America. On behalf of all Americans, I am relieved that Congress has finally come together to do what we were sent here to do: govern.”
In a recent Talk Business-Hendrix College Poll, 40% of Arkansas voters said President Obama and the Democrats were to blame for the shutdown, 35% said Republicans were responsible, and 24% said both parties were to blame. Only one percent did not express an opinion.