WASHINGTON – Rep. Scott Tipton voted for the budget deal to end the partial government shutdown and avert a default of the nation’s credit rating, but he did so with little enthusiasm.
“I don’t think anyone was excited about this,” the Cortez Republican said minutes after the House approved the legislation late Wednesday night.
Rep. Mike Coffman’s endorsement of the Continuing Appropriations Act of 2014 was similarly downbeat.
“The only good thing about this bill is the bridge it has for negotiations, which had been lacking in this whole process,” Coffman said late Wednesday afternoon.
Rep. Cory Gardner had been even less effusive than Coffman, despite an assurance from Colorado’s two senators, both Democrats, in the morning that it contained a major provision the three lawmakers had sought to provide federal relief for Colorado’s floods. He voted for the bill.
Rep. Doug Lamborn was the lone member of Colorado’s congressional delegation who cast a “nay” vote against the bill.
“I remain committed to protecting all Americans from this oppressive law,” the Colorado Springs Republican said of President Obama’s signature health-care law, the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.
All five of the Democrats voted for the legislation – Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet as well as Representatives Diana DeGette of Denver, Jared Polis of Boulder, and Ed Perlmutter of Golden.
In contrast to Tipton and Coffman, a smiling Bennet was ebullient about the legislation.
Before the Senate voted 81-18 to approve the bill, the junior senator shook hands vigorously with Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and chatted with numerous Democratic colleagues on the Senate floor. His statement to the public was less cheerful.
“Shutting down our government and threatening our full faith and credit to score political points is absurd. And we did all of this for a short-term budget deal that barely keeps the lights on,” Bennet said.
The legislation would provide sufficient funding for the federal government until Jan. 15 and raise the borrowing limit for the U.S. Treasury — the equivalent of the nation’s credit card — through Feb. 7 at least.
In August and September, Republican rank-and-file members in the House said unless the individual mandate in President Obama’s signature health-care law was defunded or delayed, they would not vote to keep the federal government open. Their showdown with President Obama and congressional Democrats resulted in a partial government shutdown for 16 days this month.
By Wednesday morning, Republicans had won few concessions. They got language that requires stiffer income verification requirement of those who receive tax credits for being enrolled in a health-care plan. And they got the creation of a bicameral budget conference chaired by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) to find ways to reform entitlement programs and cut spending. Yet their central demand — to delay the individual mandate for 12 months — was dropped; a provision to repeal a sales tax on medical devices also was not included.
Colorado Republicans differed on the importance of the concessions. “The minor victory in all this, and it wasn’t much of a victory, was the income verification requirement. There ought to be full income verification,” Tipton said.
Coffman said the bill locks in the automatic, round-the-board spending cuts from the Budget Control Act of 2011 and creates a budget commission to examine trimming entitlement spending.
In the early morning and afternoon, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had conceded the partial shutdown of the federal government had not helped the Republican brand politically. Mike Needham, chief executive director of Heritage Action, a key conservative movement group, made similar comments on Fox News. “Everybody understands that we’re not going to be able to repeal this law until 2017,” he said of the Affordable Care Act.
The result of one poll at least confirmed conservative leaders in their disquiet. A Rasmussen survey found that congressional Democrats had a 45-38 lead over their GOP counterparts in a generic congressional ballot, a sharp jump from the 40-40 split the two parties had in the first week of the partial government shutdown.
Even so, an aide to a top Senate Republican confirmed that congressional Republicans have been involved in a government shutdown standoff before without sustaining major damage politically. The aide noted that House Republicans lost only three seats in the 1996 election while Senate Republicans gained two seats.
As for Colorado, the bill includes a provision the delegation had sought — a lifting of the cap to provide emergency relief to counties that the late summer floods damaged and wiped out. The Secretary of Transportation can spend as much as $450 million under the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act for emergency relief projects in the state.
President Obama has said he will sign the bill into law.