Deal to end federal shutdown may be in sight

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Early reports out of Washington may be a light — albeit faint — at the end of the federal government shutdown tunnel.

Here are the basics of what is being negotiated right now (via the Atlantic, and other outlets):

  • The government is funded through January 15.
  • The debt ceiling is raised through February 7.
  • There are two minor changes to Obamacare: There will be stronger verification of incomes for those applying for insurance subsidies, a Republican wish; and a reinsurance fee in the law will be delayed for one year, a Democratic desire.
  • A bipartisan conference committee on the budget is supposed to finish formal negotiations on a long-term plan to fund the government and reform the tax code by mid-December, with the goal of replacing further planned cuts from sequestration.

After a day of negotiating, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) sounded optimistic, saying “We’ve made tremendous progress. We are not there yet, but tremendous progress. And everyone just needs to be patient. Perhaps tomorrow will be a bright day.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) echoed Reid’s positive tone in a speech closing the Senate Monday evening:  “We’ve had a good day. I think it’s safe to say we’ve made substantial progress and we look forward to making more progress in the future.”

Given the minor changes to the Affordable Care Act, early reports are that if this essential framework goes forward, it is a win for Democrats. However, several prominent policy voices are expressing skepticism at how short the fix really is. As Ezra Klein noted in the Washington Post, “[t]he timing of all this is designed to create a fight about sequestration.” 

The end may be in sight. In this case, though, the end may only be the beginning.