Final Deal Agreed to, Procedural Challenges Ahead
After weeks of tense verbal and legislative battles, a bipartisan deal has been crafted by Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) that would reopen the federal government and avert a default on federal debts. The agreement would provide roughly three months for Congress and the White House to negotiate on more long-term matters outside the chaotic atmosphere of a government shutdown or possible default. Though the exact text has not been made public, the general framework was announced on the Senate floor at noon today. The major provisions include:
- Government Funding: The deal extends funding for all federal agencies until January 15, 2014. The “top line” discretionary spending level of $986 billion extends the prorated spending level from fiscal year 2013 which includes automatic sequestration cuts.
- Debt Ceiling: The deal suspends the Debt Limit until February 7th. In addition, the deal permits the Treasury Department to use “extraordinary measures” after February 7th which delays the date of default by several months.
- Budget Agreement: In March, the House and Senate passed differing budget blueprints. The proposal instructs both chambers to convene a bicameral conference to reconcile their issues by December 13th.
In addition to those items identified by Senator Reid, reports state the agreement also includes the following provisions:
- Healthcare Subsidies Income Verification: Requires all intending beneficiaries of any federal subsidies under the new healthcare law to verify their household income to ensure eligibility.
- Backpay for Federal Employees: The bill will provide retroactive backpay for all federal workers, both furloughed and essential staff, for the period in which the federal government was shutdown.
- Reprogramming Authority: The bill provides federal agencies authority to transfer between their various accounts (officially called “reprogramming”) to mitigate the impact of sequestration cuts.
With the agreement reached, the attention turns to procedure and parliamentary rules. Both chambers must pass the bill as expeditiously as possible prior to Thursday’s deadline before a default on federal debts occurs. Standing rules in both chambers could pose a problem unless members agree to bypass those mechanisms. It appears the House will vote first on the deal, though that has not been confirmed by House leaders.
As events unfold in the next 48 hours, McDonald Hopkins Government Strategies will continue to keep you up to date.
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