Local economic expert: To avoid future shutdown, default, changes to political environment needed
Dr. Harold Doty, UT Tyler
TYLER, TX (KLTV) -
After sixteen days of stalemate, and with just hours to spare before another looming crisis, Congress passed a bill in Washington, D.C. early Thursday morning that ends the partial government shutdown and raises the debt limit.
The new deal came after 11 hours of debate. Senate leaders Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell crafted the legislation, which the Senate passed overwhelmingly in a 81 to 18 vote.
Texas's Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn split votes, with Cruz voting no and Cornyn, yes.
The House voted 285 to 144 to approve the bill, with most Republicans, including all five of East Texas's representatives in Congress, voting no.
The bill makes no major changes to the president's health care law, which was the main Republican sticking point that sparked the shutdown in the first place. The agreement will reopen the government until January 15 and it also avoids a default for now, extending the government's borrowing ability until February 7.
In the meantime, Republicans and Democrats will begin talks on a broader budget deal.
But an East Texas economic expert says those early 2014 deadlines mean we could be back in the same place in just three months unless some major changes are made to our national political environment.
"In the talks I'm seeing, they plan to raise the debt limit so it should run through about mid-February," says Dr. Harold Doty, the Assistant Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at UT Tyler. "It means that it buys our government officials some time to begin to address the serious problems, to stop the politicking and to try to, for both parties, to try to put our country back on a proper course."
Doty says to think of the debt ceiling like the limit on your credit card, and that each time the U.S. government gets close to the borrowing limit, Congress has to approve raising it.
"The good news about the debt ceiling, because it's real easy for people to say, 'Oh, the debt ceiling is bad.' Well, it's not, because what it means is every so often as we approach the debt ceiling, what's supposed to happen is the debt ceiling is supposed to force our legislators to make some difficult decisions about how much we're going to borrow rather than just taking the top off the credit card," Doty said. "So I know people get frustrated about these debt ceiling debates, but think how bad it would be if we just took the cap off?"
Doty says that's a necessary discussion, and should be a good one, about the direction of the country, but our political environment right now is causing more harm than good.
"I think that we really do, despite all of the fun that we make of both houses of Congress, there are lots of really smart people there," Doty said. "There are some people who have good ideas, and what's going to have to happen is the reasonable parts of both parties are going to have to come together and make difficult decisions."
"I think all of our politicians are going to have to begin to think about doing what's right for the country and not what's right for re-election," he continued.
But Doty believes this last-minute deal means business as usual will continue in Washington -- and that the only way to prevent the same scenario from happening again is to have the "reasonable people" from both parties sit down together and negotiate.
"Fundamentally our country spends too much money. To be a successful country, we simply have to cut spending," said Doty. "Both parties know it. Right now they're so busy politicking that we can't seem to get the reasonable people together so that they can make good decisions to begin to address the serious problems our nation faces."