Tuesday, October 1, 2013

"Nothing Good Happens After Midnight"

The day-long legislative ping-pong Monday concluded in a way many feared: the government shut down for the first time in nearly 17 years. The tireless AHCA Hill team kept up with the proceedings all through the prior weekend with Senate Democrats and House Republicans as divided as ever. Many Republican proposals circulated, all with the intention of gutting or delaying some part of the Affordable Care Act, the exchanges for which go live today. It seemed, however, that no plan could win. Many of the more moderate proposals, such as Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) proposal for a one week extension to continue debate, suffered rejection from Senate Democrats and conservative House Republicans alike. In a last-ditch effort, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) attempted to pass a bill to allow negotiators to be appointed to a joint-committee to create an agreement, but the Senate rejected the plan just hours before midnight. Both chambers adjourned in the early morning on Tuesday and are now back in session.

Reports on how long the shutdown will last vary widely. Privately, most senior Republicans do not see it ending in less than a week. Younger members of Congress are much more optimistic; Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), a first-term Senator, former House member, and outspoken advocate of conservative budgetary policy, said he only expects the ordeal to last a day or two. His disappointment showed when the Senator tweeted, “Nothing good happens after midnight, including government shutdowns. Not Congress' finest hour.” Many Republicans show concern they will receive the brunt of public backlash resulting from the shutdown. Besides Sen. Flake, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) all publicly stated they think Republicans will lose the PR battle surrounding the shutdown, regardless of its result.

Still, there remains a silver lining. Many reports indicate that, while tough budgetary battles loom on the legislative calendar, the shutdown may be the best one for Congress to get fights “out of their system.” While the shutdown certainly affects the entire nation and AHCA members, discussions over the debt ceiling and an end-of-year budget deal have the chance to have a much greater monetary impact on providers. While October 17—the debt ceiling deadline—might as well be centuries away legislatively speaking, there is hope that the fallout from the shutdown could inspire more compromise as 2013 draws to a close. AHCA will continue to speak to Members of Congress and their staff throughout the shutdown to continue to ensure that the importance of long term care remains on the radar even while fights over government funding and ACA dominate the legislative landscape.

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