WASHINGTON – Sen. Mike Johanns told The World-Herald on Wednesday that he plans to support a bipartisan agreement to reopen the federal government and raise the national debt ceiling.
The Nebraska Republican has been critical of the initial GOP strategy to use the budget and debt showdowns as leverage to roll back the health care law. A member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Johanns said Democrats started out earlier this year trying to bust through existing spending caps included in the Budget Control Act. Johanns said the deal on the table keeps those caps.
"To come in and be able to say, 'Look, we are not increasing spending above the caps, we are adhering to the caps, the sequester is still in place,' to me is the right result and it was the right thing to be talking about from day one," Johanns said.
Johanns said some of his colleagues spent months "proclaiming that they could shut down Obamacare, when they never could."
The day the government shut down but the health care law kept rolling along was a "teachable moment" for those who had pushed the strategy, Johanns said, and he predicted that future fights on keeping the government open or raising the debt ceiling will focus on fiscal issues.
Johanns worked with a bipartisan group organized by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, to create a framework for the deal. Even though some elements of that group's work were not included in the Senate plan, Johanns seemed fairly satisfied with the end product.
"This is the right result," Johanns said. "This is where we should have started in the first place."