Kentucky Congressmen Reticent on McConnell-Reid Deal as Moderates Take Lead on Shutdown, Default

Kentucky Congressmen John Yarmuth and Hal Rogers support Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell's plan to reopen the federal government and raise the debt ceiling, but the rest of Kentucky's federal delegation are withholding judgment until huddling with GOP House leaders.

The deal struck with Democratic Leader Harry Reid appears to have bipartisan support in the Senate, but could face an uphill battle in the GOP-controlled House.

According to reports, the McConnell-Reid deal ends the government shutdown through Jan. 15 and pushes the borrowing limit back until Feb. 7.

It maintains sequestration level spending cuts and makes a slight modification to the Affordable Care Act by requiring individuals to have an income verification on the health exchange sign-ups.

“I’m confident we’ll be able to begin to do both those things later today. Crucially, I’m also confident that we’ll be able to announce that we’re protecting the government spending reductions that both parties agreed to under the Budget Control Act,” McConnell said.

Spokespersons for Republican Reps. Thomas Massie, Andy Barr and Brett Guthrie of Kentucky declined to comment until discussing the proposal with GOP leaders. Rep. Ed Whitfield's office has not responded to our requests for comment.

Yarmuth, a Democrat, says the McConnell-Reid deal is something he can support.

“Obviously as with any piece of legislation I don't agree with every aspect of it. But in terms of resolving a very difficult situation and reverting a potential global financial crisis I think it's a very good solution,” he says.

In a statement to WFPL, Rogers, who chairs the Appropriations Committee, says the faster the House can pass the McConnell-Reid plan the better.

“The plan is very near to the ‘clean’ Continuing Resolution that I introduced in early September, and while not everyone will like everything about it, we are at a time when compromise must be made for the greater good of our nation and our people,” says Rogers.

It's a familiar place for McConnell as GOP leader, delivering a reconciliatory compromise in the face of conservative activists who ignited this fight to repeal and then delay the health care law.

Facing a primary opponent in next year's election, McConnell said getting rid of Obamacare remains a commitment of the GOP, but with plummeting polls numbers re-opening the government and avoiding default took precedence.

In the end, more moderate lawmakers were pushing a bipartisan plan that has its fingerprints all over the Reid-McConnell proposal.

“We worked as almost a parallel track that when (leaders) would get into difficulty we kept moving along,” Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, a member of the so-called moderate caucus told WFPL. “This plan was always there and was getting even stronger by the day. So if they faltered this package was waiting in the wings as well.”

Despite the attention give to political firebrands such as Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and stories about fractures in the GOP, it was senators such as Republican Susan Collins of Maine and Democrat Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota who crafted a plan that ended up in the McConnell-Reid.

“The easiest thing in the world is to be the loudest person in the Senate or the loudest person in the House. The person getting the most attention, but that doesn't get anything done,” Donnelly says. “What gets things done is the relationships you have to work together. And you had 14 people in a room who trusted one another and knew they could trust each other's word to make the nation stronger.”

UPDATE 4 p.m.: “Congressman Whitfield is very appreciative of Senator McConnell’s leadership on this issue and currently plans to support this legislation in the House of Representatives,” says spokesman Chris Pack.

UPDATE 5:22 p.m.:

Count Congressman Massie—who said constituents described the shutdown as “not a big deal” to him— against the McConnell-Reid deal.

Massie says the proposal lacks any cuts (it keeps sequestration reduction levels) or reforms while raising the debt ceiling.

UPDATE 12:09 a.m.:

The government shutdown ended as the Senate approved the McConnell-Reid deal 81-18 and the House concurred with a 285-144 vote.

Among Kentucky's federal delegation those who voted in favor of the proposal were Sen. McConnell, Congressmen Yarmuth, Guthrie, Whitfield and Rogers.

Those who opposed the bill to reopen the government and avoid default were Sen. Rand Paul along with Congressmen Massie and Barr.

In a statement, Barr said—despite McConnell's point that the bill maintains sequestration reductions—he voted against the deal because it failed to reduce spending and hold lawmakers accountable.

“I want to re-open the government and I am committed to avoiding default.  In fact, I voted 26 times to fund the government or otherwise prevent a shutdown.  I have also voted to raise the debt ceiling with my vote for the No Budget No Pay Act.

“But it would be unfair to young people and the next generation to raise the debt ceiling without getting government spending under control.

“President Obama says we need to pay our bills.  I agree. But raising the debt limit without reforming government isn’t paying our bills.  It’s asking China and our other creditors to pay our bills for us. Opening up a new credit card without getting government spending under control isn’t avoiding default, it’s just delaying default.”

Across the Ohio River, Indiana's two senators Democratic Joe Donnelly and Republican Dan Coats voted in favor of the bill along with Republican Congressman Todd Young, who said he voted to “tighten anti-fraud measures” in the health care law.

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