Late Wednesday night, the House passed – and President Obama signed – a budget deal hammered out by the Senate to end the federal government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling, narrowly avoiding the threat of default. (The Treasury Department estimated that the U.S. would come perilously close to running out of cash to pay its bills by Thursday.) Here’s what the bill does:

  1. It suspends the debt ceiling through February 7, 2014. The Treasury Department can borrow additional funds through February 7 to ensure that the U.S. meets its obligations, and Treasury may employ “extraordinary measures” to pay the nation’s bills for a while after that date. But the debt ceiling will need to be raised or suspended again later in 2014.
  2. It ends the shutdown and funds the federal government through January 15, 2014. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers are now back on the job, museums and monuments have reopened, and federal programs are resuming normal operations. The bill provides back pay for furloughed workers and reimbursement for states that covered costs during the shutdown that are normally assumed by the federal government. But the 16-day shutdown needlessly cost billions of dollars, weakened the economy and the creditworthiness of the United States, and hurt low-income families who rely on government programs.
  3. It leaves the health care law intact – but keeps the sequester, too. The bill does not contain any of the major concessions that House Republican leadership sought to delay or defund provisions of the health care law (“Obamacare”). But the Senate did agree to maintain FY 2013 spending levels through January 15, which means the sequester – which has cut billions of dollars from programs that women and their families depend on and undermined the economic recovery – will continue. Under the bill, government funding levels for the first few months of FY 2014 will be much closer to the House-passed budget plan than to the Senate’s own FY 2014 budget.

What the bill leaves undone is a plan to fund the government after January 15. To that end, House and Senate leaders have agreed to meet in a conference committee on the FY 2014 budget, with the goal of reaching agreement on a budget plan for the remainder of the year by mid-December.

Conferees will attempt to reconcile the FY 2014 budgets passed by the House and the Senate earlier this year – hardly an easy task. The Senate-passed budget protects core safety net programs, proposes new investments to expand early childhood programs and grow the economy, and calls for a balanced package of revenue increases and spending cuts to replace the sequester; in contrast, the House-passed budget would end the sequester only for defense programs, while making even deeper cuts to programs that support low-income Americans and giving trillions in tax cuts to millionaires and corporations.

The upcoming negotiations present an opportunity for Congress to move past the damage caused by the shutdown and the threat of default and on to measures that can produce a far more widely shared recovery. Women and their families need a budget that that ends the sequester, protects programs that lower-income Americans depend on to make ends meet, requires the wealthiest Americans and corporations to pay their fair share of taxes, and makes investments to grow the economy. As the budget debates continue, I hope our leaders in Washington resolve to set aside political games and move forward with these goals in mind.

Take Action Donate
facebook twitter instagram search paper-plane