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U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy said earlier Wednesday that they supported a deal reached that night to reopen the federal government and raise the debt ceiling, but that it was not a cause for celebration.
“I’m certainly relieved this bipartisan agreement means our nation will avoid default and continue paying our bills. But simply and bluntly, this point should have never been reached,” Blumenthal, D-Conn., said, noting that the dysfunction in Congress “damaged America.”
Murphy, D-Conn., said no one should “be doing an end zone dance” because it should be a basic expectation of government that the doors stay open and bills are paid. The Tea Party Republicans who sought to defund or delay the Affordable Care Act by shutting down the government, he added, “got nothing out of this deal.”
“If there is a thin silver lining to this two-week fiasco, it’s that hopefully the Tea Party has recognized that they cannot advance their political aims by bringing the economy to its knees through a shutdown or threatened default,” Murphy said.
The House vote that essentially ended the government shutdown Wednesday night was 285-144. U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, voted in favor of the bipartisan measure.
“This farcical shutdown became the most expensive civics lesson in history — costing American taxpayers up to $300 million a day — to educate extremist House Republicans that government provides invaluable services to keep our nation and our economy moving,” Courtney said in a news release. “As I have in the past, I voted for a compromise, bipartisan measure forged in the Senate to break this impasse. It was the same deal we could have voted on in August, certainly a deal that we could have voted on three weeks ago to avoid this self-inflicted damage.”
The bill funds the government through Jan. 15 and raises the debt ceiling until Feb. 7 so the Treasury Department can continue borrowing money to pay the government’s bills. It also sets up a conference committee to address broader budget issues.
The bill next heads to the president to be signed.
The 16-day shutdown forced 1,500 local government workers to stay home during the furloughs at the start of the shutdown. Federal offices in the region closed, training was delayed for local soldiers, home and business loans stalled and the processing of veterans’ disability claims slowed.
The government was slated to exhaust its borrowing authority today and have only the cash on hand and any incoming revenues to meet its obligations.
Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew warned Congress last week that failing to raise the debt ceiling could be deeply damaging to the financial markets, the ongoing economic recovery and the jobs and savings of millions of Americans. Large payments are due between Oct. 17 and Nov. 1 to Medicare providers, Social Security beneficiaries, veterans and active-duty service members, Lew said in testimony before the Senate Committee on Finance.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced the deal jointly on the Senate floor Wednesday.
The bill avoids any major changes to the health care law. There is a provision to ensure that recipients of subsidies under the health care law meet the required income levels.
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives set up a showdown over the budget by passing a continuing resolution to extend the current government spending that would have also defunded the Affordable Care Act, which Senate leaders have said they will not do.
The government closed Oct. 1 because Congress could not agree on a budget or a continuing resolution.
The bill does not address the next round of automatic budget cuts under sequestration, which will take effect in January.
Blumenthal and Murphy said the bill also does not specifically reimburse states for any programs, such as Head Start, that states paid to keep running while the government was closed, but that they would work to make everyone whole. Both also said they received hundreds of emails from constituents affected by the shutdown.
Blumenthal said he is hoping “we can get back to the business of governing,” and adopt a common sense budget that makes smart cuts in spending and raises revenue.
“There should be a clear lesson learned from this,” Murphy added. “We should never put the country through this again.”