House Budget Vote Collapses—Is the Shutdown's End In Sight?



Looks like the government shutdown endgame may be in sight.

House Republicans canceled a planned vote this evening on what would have been a return offer to the Senate deal that was brokered yesterday by Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The full details of that plan are still being hashed out, but it would fund the government through the middle of January, raise the debt limit until February 7 (with the possibility of "extraordinary measures" effectively extending it further), and create a sort of super-duper committee by requiring both committees to appoint conferees to talk about ways to further reduce the debt and deficit by December 13. 

The House bill would have funded the government until December 15 and lifted the debt ceiling until February 7, and also reversed a recent decision allowing Hill staffers and legislators to use their existing employer coverage contribution on health insurance purchased in the exchange. 

But the House plan, which leadership spent all day working on in a last-minute effort to return something to the Senate, was pulled after GOP leadership found that it did not have enough Republican votes to pass the plan. House Democrats had said they would vote against it. 

Which means that the only game in town is the McConnell-Reid deal that appeared on the horizon yesterday. Republicans in the House seem to have accepted that they are now out of manuevers, and that the Senate deal will now pass. 

But not, however, without a large group of House GOP no votes—and an assist from House Democrats. If and when Speaker of the House John Boehner goes ahead and holds a vote on the Senate plan, a sizable group of House Republicans are expected to vote against the proposal. Democrats will make up the difference, and the vote will pass. The shutdown will be over, and the Republicans who pushed for it hardest will have gotten essentially nothing for it. 

Update: Politico has a rundown of the major elements of the deal:

Under the plan, a $986 billion government funding bill would reopen federal agencies until Jan. 15, and the debt ceiling would be lifted until Feb. 7. The two parties would be given the opportunity to cut a larger-scale budget agreement to slash future deficits as a bicameral conference committee would have until Dec. 13 to finalize such a deal.

Democrats won a major White House priority to ensure that the Treasury Department would still have the ability to use "extraordinary measures" to pay its bills in case Congress does not lift the debt ceiling by Feb. 7. Republicans would win a provision ensuring that recipients of Obamacare subsidies meet the required income levels.

And several sources said the deal drops a Democratic priority: No delay of an Obamacare reinsurance tax sought by labor unions, known as the "belly-button tax."

But the deal punts many of the major issues over deficits and spending, including over whether to lock in 2014 funding levels at $967 billion once the next round of sequestration cuts take effect in January.