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BREAKING NEWS: Senate Leaders Zero In on Deal to End Federal Shutdown and Raise the Debt Ceiling

October 15, 2013
by Mark Hagland
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Late Monday night, the Senate appeared to be closer to resolving the current political crisis--yet uncertainty remained on multiple fronts
Late Monday night Oct. 14, the U.S. Capitol in Washington was abuzz with activity, as Senate leaders appeared to be closing in on a legislative deal that might end the double crisis of the current federal government shutdown and the looming federal government debt default. Late-evening reports in both the Washington Post and The New York Times, and broadcast reports on Fox News and MSNBC, revealed details of a Senate plan that appeared to be coming together barely two days before the U.S. Treasury department faced the prospect of no longer being able to pay the government's bills. Even so, speculation continued as to whether House Republicans, whose legislative actions initially triggered the shutdown, would go along with Senate Republicans on the emerging deal. 
According to a report in the Post by Lori Montgomery and Rosalind S. Helderman, "Senate leaders said late Monday that they were closing in on a deal to raise the federal debt limit and end the two-week-old government shutdown, just days before the Treasury Department exhausts its ability to borrow. The emerging agreement," they wrote, "would extend the Treasury Departments borrowing authority until Feb. 7, reopen the government and fund federal agencies through mid-January, according to aides and lawmakers familiar with the negotiations. In the meantime," their report added, "policymakers would launch a new round of talks over broder budget issues in hopes of developing a plan to replace deep automatic spending cuts known as the sequester, before Jan. 15. That is when the next round of sequester cuts is schedule to slice another $20 billion out of agency budgets, primarily from the Pentagon."
Brit Hume reported on "The O'Reilly Factor" that a tax might be placed on health insurers that would be used to refund costs to insurers that took on sicker enrollees, under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Other commentators noted that such a tax would only impact the ACA very peripherally. Meanwhile, an earlier element that had been considered, a two-year delay of the implementation of the medical device tax, was no longer a part of the deal being worked on by Republican and Democratic senators, according to all media reports.
Meanwhile, at just after 10 P.M. eastern time on Monday night, MSNBC's Luke Russert told Lawrence O'Donnell on the program "The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell," that,"More likely than not," the plan will be revealed Wednesday morning. "However, House Republicans are already livid about this deal, because they feel it doesn't do enough to address their concerns about the health care law," referring to the fact that House Republicans' push to defund the ACA was what initiated the current federal government shutdown. What's more, Russert told O'Donnell, "They may want to push this thing into the weekend" in order to possibly bring the fight over the ACA back into the negotiations," Russert added.
As Michael D. Shear and Jeremy W. Peters noted in their late-evening story in The New York Times, "The Senate could vote on an agreement as soon as Wednesday if Mr. Reid [Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader (D-NV)] and Mr. McConnell [Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader (R-KY)] discuss the deal with their members on Tuesday. That would leave little time for the House to debate and vote on what will be a contentious measure."
Healthcare Informatics will continue to bring updates to its readers, as developments in this rapidly changing story continue to be made known.