Washington — Republican 2nd District Congresswoman Renee Ellmers Wednesday night delivered on her promise to vote against a deal brokered in the Senate to reopen federal government and raise the nation's debt limit to avoid a default.
The Senate voted 81 to 18 Wednesday night on the legislation, which permits the U.S. Treasury to borrow normally through Feb. 7 – or perhaps a month longer – and fund the government through Jan. 15. More than 2 million federal workers – those who had remained on the job and those who had been furloughed – will also be paid under the agreement.
"It just doesn't have enough in it for me to vote for it, to warrant raising the debt ceiling (and) adding to our nation's problems with spending," Ellmers said Wednesday afternoon, several hours before the House's passage by a 285-144 vote. "The issue here is that we've got to be fiscally responsible."
Much of the federal government shut down two weeks ago when Congress couldn't agree on a budget that would keep operations running past Sept. 30. House Republicans repeatedly tried to link a budget deal to eliminating funding for the Affordable Care Act, which began enrolling people on Oct. 1 for the health insurance required under the law next year.
President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats balked at linking the two, but it was the threat of hitting the debt limit and possibly defaulting on government obligations Thursday that brought the two sides to the bargaining table.
House Speaker John Boehner and the rest of the top GOP leadership told their rank and file that they would vote for the measure, which doesn't affect funding for the health care law.
"This is going to pass the House with plenty of votes. It's just not going to pass with my vote," Ellmers said. "My constituents are saying to me, 'Stay strong,' and I'm going to stay strong."
Sixth District Congressman Howard Coble also sided with Boehner in the House vote.
"We tried several ways to slow down this train wreck of health care reform. We tried to de-fund it or delay it for one year. We were unsuccessful," Coble said in a statement. "This vote tonight to reopen the government and extend the debt ceiling is the right way to go for right now."
For House Democrats, the deal brought a combination of relief and frustration.
Fourth District Congressman David Price and 1st District Congressman G.K. Butterfield were among those who called Republicans irresponsible for bringing the U.S. to the brink of a default, which they said could have sent economic shockwaves around the world.
"Ever since our Republican colleagues took charge of the House after the 2010 election, it's been just one crisis after another," Price said. "They have governed by crisis, by provoking crises so they can get their way. That didn't work for them this time."
"The Republicans have been extreme, they've been obstructionist and they've stood in the way of a bipartisan compromise," Butterfield said. "I think they're going to see the tea leaves trending away from them."
Ellmers said she hopes that the whole episode can become a teaching moment for the GOP.
"I'm hoping that we're going to learn overall what we need to stand for, what we need to believe we can achieve in a realistic sense rather than trying to get 100 percent of something that we know we won't," she said.