How Liberals Should Feel about the Shutdown/Default Agreement
We have a deal. At this writing no votes have been taken, but by the time you read this, the agreement brokered between Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell may well have passed one or both houses. So how should liberals feel about it? Let's break it down.
1. The government is funded through January 15th at sequestration levels.
Even though sequestration was supposed to be painful for both sides, it turned out that Republicans were quite happy about it. Democrats would have preferred to reverse sequestration and have a less arbitrarily slashed budget, but this isn't the end of the world.
2. The debt limit is raised until February 7.
When details were first coming out about the agreement, one report I read in Politico implied that henceforth, debt-ceiling increases were going to proceed on what is known as the McConnell Plan, since Mitch McConnell once proposed it (before changing his mind). Under that plan, Congress could pass a bill refusing to increase the ceiling, but the president could veto it, and they'd need a two-thirds majority in both houses to override the veto. If the veto wasn't overridden, the ceiling would rise. That would effectively be the end of debt-ceiling crises. I got very excited. Then it turned out that the McConnell Plan applies only to this vote. So we can have another default crisis in less than four months, which I'm sure we're all looking forward to.
3. A conference committee will be formed to work out a budget by December 13.
Call me cynical, but I doubt that a group of House Republicans led by Paul Ryan are going to be willing to agree to a reality-based budget that Democrats can live with. I could be wrong, but I'm guessing they'll wind up deadlocked, in which case we'll need another continuing resolution come January.
Conclusion: Could work out well, could be terrible.
4. Income verification for people getting subsidies on the health-care exchanges will be strengthened.
Details on exactly how this will work have yet to be released, but it looks like you'd have to have your income verified by the IRS before you can actually sign up. This is already a complex and potentially troublesome part of the signup process, particularly for people like freelancers and the self-employed whose incomes can vary from month to month. There is no reason Republicans demanded this other than to make getting insurance more difficult for as many people as they could and thereby throw sand in the gears of Obamacare. It's really disappointing that Reid agreed to it.
Conclusion: Double boo.
5. Furloughed federal workers will get back pay.
This is good all around. It'll be a big help to people who got screwed the last couple of weeks, it'll help the economy, and maybe my neighbor will stop mowing his lawn, every day, day after day.
So that's about the size of it: some good things, some not-so-good things, but what's most important is that the crisis is about to be over. For now.
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