Senate, House pass bill to reopen government

WASHINGTON D.C. – The Senate and House passed the bill to reopen the closed portion of the federal government on the eve of defaulting on its debt Wednesday. The president signed the bill into law later that evening. The bill’s passing ends 16 days of a partial government shutdown that has cost the national economy over $20 billion.

In an 81-18 vote, the Senate passed a temporary spending bill that would fund the government through Jan. 15, 2014, and raise the debt limit through Feb. 7. Without the raise in the debt limit, the government was slated to reach its $16.7 trillion limit at 11:59 p.m., Thursday.

A provision within the bill also requires people who apply for health care under the Affordable Care Act to prove their income level in order to qualify for government subsidies.

Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch previously stated his support for the bill, prior to voting for it.

“This bill isn’t perfect, but it is a path forward to reopen the government and prevent an economy-shaking default,” Hatch said.

Sen. Mike Lee, who has stood with Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in seeking to defund and delay the ACA – the initial stance that led to the partial government shutdown – voted against the bill.

Before the vote, Lee said on the floor of the Senate that: “It appears that this particular fight will end much the same way Obamacare began: in a last-minute deal, negotiated in back rooms, then forced on Congress and the American people.”

Lee said that the media kept asking if “it was worth it.” Lee said, “My answer is that it is always worth it to do the right thing.”

President Barack Obama spoke soon after the Senate vote and said that he would sign the bill as soon as it hits his desk. He also said that the passing of the bill will remove clouds of uncertainty and unease from businesses and citizens.

The president stated that he is willing to work with anyone to help move the country forward and improve it economically, saying that he didn’t believe Democrats held a monopoly on good ideas. However, in order to move forward, things would have to be done in a spirit of cooperation.

We’ve got to get out of the habit of governing by crisis,” the president said.

A reporter asked the president at the conclusion of his remarks if another shutdown was going to happen once the deadline of the temporary spending bill was reached. Obama promptly said, “No.”

The House passed the bill in a 285-144 vote around 8:20 p.m., Wednesday night. In the debate leading up to the vote, many representatives referred to the government shutdown as irresponsible and unnecessary.

All of the House Democrats, along with 187 Republicans, voted for the debt limit deal. The remaining 144 Republicans all voted against the bill.

“I have said all along that I am firmly committed to stopping this reckless government shutdown and that playing games with the full faith and credit of the United States is unacceptable,” Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, said prior to the House vote. “Is this legislation ideal? No, it is not. But it is the result of folks with different views coming together to get something done, and I hope that type of effort continues as we work to cut spending and cut the national debt.”

Reps. Rob Bishop, Jason Chaffetz and Chris Stewart each voted against the bill.

“I’ve always said that any increase of the debt ceiling must be coupled with spending and entitlement reforms that will balance our budget and allow us to begin paying down the debt,” Stewart said. “Our national debt, which will double under this administration, is now approaching $17 trillion.  I could not vote to increase the debt ceiling tonight, as the legislation does not include any spending cuts or reforms and included numerous additional spending provisions. We simply can’t keep spending money that we don’t have.”

The White House received the legislation and the president signed it into law around 10:30 p.m., Utah time, officially ending the partial government shutdown.

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Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

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