by Chris Harris
With much national angst about the government “shutdown” as it’s been called ending with a deal struck Wednesday night, Somerset’s own Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers was right in the thick of the action.
Rogers, a long-time Republican U.S. Representative from Kentucky’s Fifth District, lauded the bill passed by the House of Representatives as the clock wound down toward a potential default on national debt.
“This legislation will raise the nation’s debt ceiling to avoid default, reopen the doors of the federal government, and end this unfortunate shutdown,” said Rogers, speaking on the floor of the House Wednesday.
“The Senate has just passed this bill, and now it is up to this House to send it to the President for his signature,” said Rogers. “It is the product of a final agreement between Republicans and Democrats to help put us back on stable ground — with an open government, and without the threat of default — as we look to find a long-term, comprehensive solution to our multitude of fiscal problems.”
President Barack Obama — who on Thursday chastised Congressional Republicans who had attempted to force a defunding or delay of the Affordable Care Act or “ObamaCare” as it’s also known in previous spending bill proposals — signed the bill early yesterday, following final approval by the House.
The measure restores funding for the government through Jan. 15 and extends the nation's borrowing authority through Feb. 7.
The partial government shutdown started Oct. 1. The U.S. was to reach its debt limit Thursday if no deal was reached.
"Some of the same folks who pushed for the shutdown and threatened default claimed their actions were needed to get America back on track,” said Obama. "But probably nothing has done more damage to America's credibility to the world. ... It's encouraged out enemies. It's emboldened our competitors. And it's depressed our friends who look to us for steady leadership.”
Among the immediate results of the end of the 16-day shutdown were the “Panda Cam” at the National Zoo going back online, and thousands of federal employees that had been furloughed due to their “non-essential” status going back to their jobs.
“The resolution before us will buy us time ... and will ensure that our people have access to the critical government services they rely on,” said Rogers.
The Congressman said that the bill provides critical funding for operating the federal government at the current, annual rate of $986 billion through January 15.
“The resolution includes a limited number of non-controversial or technical changes, called ‘anomalies,’” said Rogers, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. “Many have already been passed by the House and the Senate. However, a few are new, such as provisions to ensure the smooth re-opening of the government; to provide due compensation for federal employees and other funding for shutdown costs; to provide funding for the FAA to continue current operations without interruption; and so on. These have been included to prevent irrevocable harm to vital government programs, to continue critical services, and to ensure good governance.”
Rogers also said the resolution before will help protect against fraud and abuse by requiring income verifications for individuals seeking subsidies under ObamaCare.
“This bill is a fair bill,” said Rogers. “It is a compromise bill. It will help restore the peoples’ confidence in their elected officials, and in the economic future of this nation. I believe that my colleagues can support it — and should support it today — to end this shutdown and to pull us back from the ledge of this fiscal cliff. The sooner we pass this resolution, the sooner we can move on to the many other tasks the people have sent us here to do.”
The agreement was brokered by the Senate's top Democrat, Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, and its Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. They stepped in after the House was unable to coalesce around a Republican-only approach.
McConnell is up for re-election next year, and the tea party opponent he faces in the Republican primary issued a statement criticizing him for making the deal.
"When the stakes are highest, Mitch McConnell can always be counted on to sell out conservatives," Matt Bevin said.
Kansas Rep. Tim Huelskamp said Republicans may have "lost the battle but we're going to win the war."
The Senate approved the legislation by an 81-18 vote. The House followed suit by a tally of 285-144, with 87 Republicans in favor and 144 against. Democrats unanimously supported the bill, even though it kept across-the-board funding cuts they opposed.
The Associated Press contributed to this article