WASHINGTON — Nearly all Capitol Hill lawmakers from Nebraska and Iowa voted Wednesday to reopen the federal government and raise the debt ceiling.
U.S. Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., backed the legislation after having previously voted with his Republican colleagues to condition the funding of the government on rolling back the health care law.
They barely laid a glove on the law, however, winning only a provision aimed at better verification of income levels for those seeking federal subsidies in the new insurance marketplaces.
Terry said he wished Republicans had been able to get more out of this battle, but the best path forward was to reopen the government and negotiate on the budget.
“The practical reality is the battle to fight Obamacare is best done with an open government and during the now-mandated spending negotiations,” Terry said. “This fight is not over by a long shot.”
Both of Nebraska's U.S. senators backed the legislation to end the impasse that kept the government closed for more than two weeks and threatened to cause a default on the nation's financial obligations.
Iowa's two senators split on the bill.
“The president refuses to lead for fiscal responsibility, both short and long term, even with a government shutdown,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said of his vote against the bill.
“This agreement raises the debt limit with no action on the debt. It's a missed opportunity for forcing action to limit government and increase economic opportunities.”
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa praised the legislation.
“This agreement is welcome relief for Iowans and for all Americans who cannot afford to bear the brunt of another economic crisis manufactured by an extreme faction in Congress,” Harkin said.
The measure won the support of Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., who had been highly critical of the initial GOP strategy that tied keeping the government open to defunding the health care law.
Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., and Grassley were early backers of that strategy.
They joined a dozen other GOP senators, including Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, in signing a letter over the summer that stated they would not support spending measures to keep the government operating unless those measures also de-funded the health care law.
Cruz, a tea party champion, opposed Wednesday night's agreement, saying it did nothing but protect the status quo and offered Americans no “relief” from the health care law.
Fischer broke with Cruz and his allies, however.
“I firmly believe that a government should not intentionally make life harder for its people,” Fischer said. “A government shutdown, combined with a default on our debt, would pose an unacceptable threat to our national and economic security.”
Reps. Adrian Smith and Jeff Fortenberry, both Nebraska Republicans, supported the bill.
So did Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, voted no.
“We have to get the government back to work and pay our bills,” Fortenberry said. “The paralysis of recent weeks has severely damaged the institution of Congress and the presidency, frustrated the country and further weakened economic stability.”
The budget and debt deal passed the Senate 81-18, with 27 of the yes votes coming from Republicans. Major provisions are listed below.
» Ends the shutdown immediately; White House budget office says federal workers should plan to return to work this morning
» Finances federal agencies through Jan. 15
» Workers furloughed without pay when the shutdown began Oct. 1 receive back pay
» Government's authority to borrow money extended until Feb. 7
» Department of Health and Human Services must certify that it can verify income eligibility of people applying for government subsidies for health insurance
How the House voted: 285-144
Democrats: 198 aye; 2 not voting
Republicans: 87 aye; 144 nay; 1 not voting