Word on the Hill is that a Senate deal to end the partial government shutdown and lift the debt ceiling will be reached on Tuesday. Although specific details are murky and subject to change, the broad outlines of the deal indicate a complete victory for Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) and the Democrat caucus. With the partial government shutdown entering its third week, it looks increasingly likely that the GOP will gain next to nothing from the stand-off.
The deal negotiated between Reid and GOP Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) would reopen the government through January 15th. The GOP had sought to lock-in lower levels of spending due to next year’s sequester cuts, but that seems off the table now. The deal would also raise the debt ceiling until early February. It sets up another contentious fight over spending and debt in the critical 2014 election year.
In exchange, the GOP secured the creation of a large bi-cameral, bi-partisan commission or committee to explore budget and spending reforms. It also secured a provision to force the Obama Administration to take steps to verify the income of people seeking ObamaCare subsidies. That requirement is in the existing law, but was waived recently by the Administration.
Democrats also seem to have secured a priority for their union allies. The deal, reportedly, would delay for one year ObamaCare’s “reinsurance” tax on group plans. Repealing this tax was a key policy goal for labor.
It is hard to see this deal as anything but a complete capitulation by the GOP. The national debt would increase, without corresponding spending cuts or other reforms. Federal spending would resume at a higher level than required by the Budget Control Act, passed in 2011. Given the GOP’s inability to secure any meaningful reforms in these negotiations, it is hard to imagine it would fair better with a commission.
If a deal is reached Tuesday, it could still take several days to pass the Senate. Any one Senator can object to the deal, forcing the Senate to consider the deal through its Byzantine process. It isn’t likely to pass the Senate until well after Treasury’s October 17 deadline for new borrowing authority.
If the House gets the deal several days past the debt deadline, the chamber will come under extraordinary pressure to approve the deal.