WASHINGTON – Almost all of Minnesota’s congressional delegation voted in favor of the bill to re-open the federal government and raise the debt ceiling. Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann was the sole no vote.
The Senate approved the legislation by an 81-18 vote on Wednesday afternoon and the House followed suit late at night by a tally of 285-144, with 87 Republicans in favor and 144 against. Democrats unanimously supported the bill, which funds the government through Jan. 15 and permits it to borrow normally through Feb. 7.
Speaker John Boehner told House Republicans Wednesday afternoon in a U.S. Capitol basement caucus room that he would bring up the bipartisan Senate bill for a full vote. Upon learning that the battle was over and their side had lost, many Republicans walked out into the surrounding tunnels stone-faced. Among them was 2nd district Congressman John Kline.
“We didn’t get what we wanted. It’s as simple as that,” Kline said.
The government shutdown lasted more than two weeks and led to a near-default on the national debt. It also prompted a bruising internal debate within the GOP between those who believed that tough tactics would lead to the dismantling of the Affordable Care Act and those who believed that goal was out of reach.
Among the House Republicans who considered a shutdown unwise was Erik Paulsen, who chose his words carefully.
“There were some who didn’t have realistic attitudes about what was achievable.”
Paulsen lamented that Republicans could have spent the past two weeks highlighting the troubled roll out of the health insurance marketplaces that are part of the healthcare law.
“But that was taken off of the headlines of the front page given that there was a government shutdown,” Paulsen said.
One House Republican who was more defiant in the face of adversity was Michele Bachmann, a tea party member who had pushed for a shutdown and argued that breaching the debt ceiling wouldn’t actually lead to a default.
But as that deadline ticked closer, Bachmann said it was President Obama who had played hardball.
“What he did is count on the fact that Republicans would be the adults in the room and at the end of the day we would be unwilling to see not only our credit rating hurt but also see the United States default on the debt. We wouldn’t do that, we’re responsible people, it wouldn’t happen,” Bachmann said.
This was one of several down-to-the-wire showdowns in Congress in the past two and a half years and the first that left the federal government partially shuttered.
After each cliffhanger, lawmakers from both parties noted they’ve perhaps learned how to avoid them.
But DFL Sen. Al Franken said prevailing in this showdown was important because it established that Republicans couldn’t demand major policy concessions through must-pass bills.
“We shouldn’t create a crisis in order to negotiate with each other, that’s what we’re basically saying. We can’t lurch from crisis to crisis,” said Franken.
The government funding bill that passed last night expires in January while the new debt limit deadline expires a few weeks after that.
Democrats cited polls showing Republicans taking a bruising in public opinion over this confrontation as a sign that passing those bills in an election year should be easier.
Looking ahead, DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar pointed to a committee that’s been created as a result of this deal to work out a budget between the House and Senate as the next challenge.
“We got ourselves out of this, ok great. But that is pretty minor compared to the bigger deal that we have to do,” said Klobuchar.
But Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison pointed to the “no” votes on the final agreement — all Republican — as a sign that the basic dynamic in Congress is unchanged.
“You get a 144 people saying no, that’s quite a few people and it lets you know just how much of a block to oppose things is contained within that Republican caucus,” said Ellison.
Ellison said no one — not Democrats, Republicans or the President — looks especially good to the public after an episode like this.
“So I’m hoping that the difficulty associated with this event is so bad that nobody wants to revisit this again.”
Ellison noted the last government shutdown was 17 years ago and he hoped it will be at least that long before the next one.