Negotiations on the Government Shutdown and Debt Ceiling Move to the Senate

After discussions between the White House and the House of Representatives failed to end the stalemate over shutting down the government, the Senate met throughout the weekend to develop a plan to end the government shutdown and ensure that the federal government can pay its bills by raising the debt ceiling. The White House, the Senate Majority Leader, and the House Minority Leader have been steadfast that the government must re-open and be able to pay its bills before any negotiations on the broader fiscal issues begin.   Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) appear to be searching for a plan that could gain sufficient support from their respective parties. Among the issues that could be included in a Senate deal are several that are important to the disability community – the spending levels for discretionary programs if the government is reopened (whether at or above the levels of the automatic across-the-board spending cuts); funding for and implementation of the Affordable Care Act; “entitlement reform” including per person caps in Medicaid, means testing in Medicare, and the use of a different measure of inflation (the Chained consumer price index (CPI)) that would result in lower cost of living increases for Social Security and other programs; and revenue increases.   Meanwhile, anxiety is growing in the financial markets over the looming deadline of October 17, the date by which the U.S. is predicted to no longer be able to meet its financial obligations. While there is bi-partisan agreement that failure to act on the debt ceiling would have a disastrous effect on the U.S. economy, the path forward is unclear. If the federal government defaults on its financial obligations, the ability to operate critical lifeline programs such as Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security would be threatened.   While these programs have been shielded from the worst impact of the federal government shutdown, they are at risk if the government cannot pay its bills.

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