WASHINGTON — Nevada lawmakers who voted Wednesday for a bill to end the government shutdown and avert debt default expressed relief if not enthusiasm that the crises had been shelved, even if only for a few months.
The state’s three Democratic representatives voted for the compromise, which continues federal spending, albeit at reduced levels, until Jan. 15, and allows the government to continue borrowing to pay its bills until Feb. 7.
They were joined by Republican Rep. Joe Heck, who represents a Nevada congressional district that has a slight Democratic voter edge and who already faces a challenger to his 2014 re-election.
“This bill is not perfect, but it ends the harmful brinkmanship that held our government hostage for almost three weeks,” said Democratic Rep. Dina Titus. “It just kicks the can down the road a little bit, but for now it’s necessary.”
At the same time, Republican Sen. Dean Heller and GOP Rep. Mark Amodei put thumbs down and voted against the legislation. Each said it contains little that will alter a harmful equation of government spending and growing debt.
Calling it “yet another short-term spending bill,” Heller said the agreement “is a step backward, not forward.”
Added Amodei: “Nothing in this legislation changes the real threats to our country’s economy.”
The Senate passed the legislation, 81-18, and the House followed suit a few hours later, 285-144.
Officials said the government could begin reopening as soon as today, ending a partial shutdown that began Oct. 1. The legislation is expected to authorize back pay to 800,000 federal workers who are furloughed, as well as 2 million or so who continued to work without pay.
The agreement also calls for the formation of a House-Senate conference committee in a bid to negotiate a more lasting peace on matters of government spending, tax reform and the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration.
Heck said the bill was not what he wanted as far as spending reforms and repeal of the Affordable Care Act, but “government by crisis is not an effective way to govern.”
Republican insistence that the so-called Obamacare law be defunded or delayed put congressional leaders at loggerheads and triggered the government shutdown, which lasted long enough to run afoul of a separate deadline to extend the limit on government borrowing or risk default.
Heck said he still wants to fight Obamacare, “but not at the expense of a prolonged government shutdown.”
The only provision in the bill affecting Obamacare would require income verification for people seeking subsidies to buy health insurance.
Titus said Nevada, in its implementation of the law, already requires full income verification.
Amodei said that efforts to address federal spending, debt and health care became overly politicized, and that lawmakers seeking significant changes to the status quo were outnumbered by senators and House Democrats who pushed against them, plus the Obama administration and “the national media.”
“I now know how those folks at the Alamo felt,” Amodei said.
The agreement negotiated by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky contained some sweeteners, such as $2.5 billion in added spending for the Department of Veterans Affairs to continue attacking a backlog of benefits claims at regional offices in Reno and elsewhere.
In the larger sense, Reid said, “The compromise we reached will provide our economy with the stability it desperately needs.”
Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford said Wednesday’s votes brought a frustrating episode to an end.
“While I am glad our country averted a fiscal crisis, Congress has wasted weeks sidestepping a disaster of its own creation,” he said.
Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-783-1760. Follow @STetreaultDC on Twitter