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July 29, 2014

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Harry Reid: Compromise provides economy ‘stability it desperately needs’

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Evan Vucci / AP

Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., walks to his office after arriving on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013 in Washington.

Budget Battle Day 16

Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., walks to his office after arriving on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013 in Washington. Launch slideshow »

U.S. Sen. Harry Reid said today that the compromise he has reached with Republican leader Sen. Mitch McConnell is “desperately” needed by the country.

The two leaders announced they reached a deal to restore government funding and raise the debt ceiling.

Lawmakers in both houses of Congress must pass the measure by midnight to ensure the government doesn’t default on the national debt.

“The compromise we reached will provide our economy with the stability it desperately needs,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Wednesday.

Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell began meeting Saturday to hash out the particulars of the plan after discussions between President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner fell apart.

They were joined by a bipartisan group of 14 senators in the last two days to work out some of the details.

“This is far less than what many of us had hoped for, quite frankly, but far more than what some had sought,” McConnell said.

McConnell and other Republicans had been pushing to curtail at least some of the funding for the Affordable Care Act as part of the fiscal 2014 budget. A standoff with Democrats, who refused to budge on Obamacare, drove the government into shutdown mode on Oct. 1.

The Reid-McConnell deal avoids any major changes to the health care law, though some of the provisions batted around — such as a repeal of a tax on medical devices and subsidies for lawmakers who will purchase their health care on the exchanges — may be considered later.

At least some Democrats support both of those changes to the health care law, though as the shutdown wore on, most determined this was not the context to poke at Obamacare.

Nevada Rep. Steven Horsford, who on the eve of the shutdown voted in favor of ending lawmakers’ health care subsidies, said Tuesday night that there was no way he would repeat that vote this close to a national default deadline.

“Look, we’re out of time,” Horsford said. “I will continue to work with the leadership in the House and the Senate and the administration to address that problem.”

Republicans, even those most involved in bringing about today’s compromise, also pledged to keep fighting against several more points of Obamacare after this budget is put to rest.

“Obamacare...is ravaging our economy. Republicans remain determined to repeal this terrible law,” McConnell said. But, he added, “Now it is time for Republicans to unite behind other crucial goals.”

The compromise takes the federal budget through Jan. 15 — two weeks after the individual mandate to have insurance kicks in.

Republicans opposed to the health care law concede that once the law is fully implemented, it will be difficult to dismantle.

The compromise also requires House and Senate leaders to appoint members to a budget conference committee to hash out the many differences between the Senate and House budgets that lawmakers passed earlier this year.

Neither house of Congress has managed to appoint members to the committee over Republican objections.

While that development is long in coming, it isn’t a panacea.

Committees haven’t had much luck resolving long-term fiscal issues recently. The last time Congress struck a critical debt ceiling deal, in 2011, a so-called “super committee” with far more procedural power than a regular conference committee was unable to come up with an agreement on tax revenues and spending cuts, setting off the sequestration cuts constraining the national budget.

“This isn’t the last crisis that we’re going to go through,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., warned. He had been involved in the negotiations.

But it appears the crisis is nearing a close.

House leaders met this morning to discuss their strategy on the Senate compromise deal. While Boehner has made no formal announcement of a schedule or process for considering the legislation, he is effectively out of many other options.

On Tuesday, Republican leaders were unable to collect enough votes to put their own continuing resolution and debt ceiling measure on the House floor for a vote.

In the Senate, all procedural hurdles seem clear, after Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, the two holdouts, announced this morning that they would not seek to filibuster the compromise.

The Senate plans to vote early this evening. House Republicans will meet at 3 p.m. EST to determine their plans.

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