WASHINGTON — As Congress voted Wednesday night to reopen the federal government and avoid a default, North Carolinas Republican delegation was torn.
Republican Sen. Richard Burr voted for the measure in the Senate. From the outset, I have been clear that I believed that defunding Obamacare by shutting down the federal government was unachievable, Burr said in a statement. The decision to shut down the government has been viewed, rightfully, by the American people as irresponsible governing.
In the House, Rep. George Holding of Raleigh voted against the bill because it failed to cut spending. If anyone had any doubt Washington politics are broken, look at what happened tonight: after ten months of deliberation Congress voted to borrow more. Not to cut spending, Holding said in a statement after the vote. And to repeat the same debt ceiling and Continuing Resolution process, weve just been through, in a few months. That is the culmination of broken politics.
Rep. Renee Ellmers, a Republican from Dunn who in the past has supported the House leadership, said the bill to end the federal government shutdown didnt have enough in it to cut spending and the presidents health care law, and so she also voted against it.
Other North Carolina Republicans saw it otherwise. Rep. Howard Coble of Greensboro voted yes, and Rep. Robert Pittenger of Charlotte voted yes.
The measure to reopen the government would temporarily extend the debt ceiling. It also calls for a bipartisan House and Senate committee to work on larger budget issues by Dec. 13.
Ellmers said she wanted default to be avoided. However, she added, there isnt really enough in this bill for me to be for. It doesnt take apart Obamacare in the way I wanted to. I really was looking for a delay in the individual mandate, Ellmers said. Conscience protections should be there, too, she added, referring to language some conservatives seek that would protect physicians who refuse to provide abortions.
There also should be significant spending cuts, she added.
Ellmers earlier this year said it was a bad strategy to link defunding the Affordable Care Act to the bill that would keep the government running because it was not possible to eliminate a law that way.
On Wednesday, she said there were some things she liked about the legislation, such as income verification requirements for people who receive subsidies under the new law, even though they werent as strong as the plan the House would have imposed. And she said she liked that the bill was a short-term plan that set up negotiations on the budget.
Coble said he was opposed to the health care law and to shutting down the government from the start.
So we tried several ways to slow down this train wreck of health care reform. We tried to defund it or delay it for one year. We were unsuccessful because President Obama and Senate (Majority) Leader Harry Reid were never willing to engage even in a dialogue, Coble said in a statement.
Coble, whose 6th District includes Orange County, said the bill to keep the government funded and extend the debt ceiling was far from perfect but had some positive parts. It keeps defense and discretionary cuts known as sequester in place, and it sets the stage for negotiations on a long-term spending plan.
Pittenger said he voted for the plan, as House Speaker John Boehner had asked Republican members to do.
Pittenger said House Republicans stood up and cheered when Boehner walked into the closed-door meeting in the basement of the Capitol on Wednesday afternoon.
Rep. Richard Hudson, a Republican from Concord, said he could not second guess the speaker, but that he could not support the plan without immediate spending cuts.
The states Democrats said they voted yes, and some scolded their Republican colleagues for the shutdown.
We should never, ever, ever have had a lapse in funding, and certainly we shouldnt have walked up to the brink of a debt crisis, but we did. It all happened because a group of irresponsible members who were encouraged by Senator (Ted) Cruz exerted themselves in an inappropriate way, Rep. G.K. Butterfield, a Democrat from Wilson, said before the vote.
Rep. David Price, a Democrat from Chapel Hill, said in a statement, This manufactured crisis was unnecessary, reckless and irresponsible, and it has had real consequences for the people of our state.
Rep. Mike McIntyre of Lumberton was one of the few Democrats who, over the past two weeks, had voted in favor of measures in the House to open parts of the government, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Most Democrats rejected that approach, calling for a full reopening instead.
On Wednesday before the vote, McIntyre put out a statement saying it was good that the country could avoid a default and reopen and called for more cooperation.
We should continue bipartisan discussions with the goal of putting forth a long-term deficit reduction agreement to get our fiscal house in order and finding other areas of cooperation, including a Balanced Budget Amendment, he said.
Franco Ordonez of the McClatchy Washington Bureau contributed