The government shutdown has ended after 16 days. Federal employees are being told to return to work today after Congress passed a measure to reopen the government and raise the nation’s borrowing limit. President Obama signed the bill last night, narrowly averting today’s deadline to raise the debt limit or risk default. The measure passed both the House and Senate after Republicans dropped their efforts to use the legislation to defund the Affordable Care Act. The bill funds the government until January 15 and raises the debt ceiling until February 7, raising the prospect of another showdown early next year. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced the deal followed by his Republican counterpart Mitch McConnell.
Sen. Harry Reid: “The eyes of the world have been on Washington all this week, and that is a gross understatement. And while they witnessed a great deal of political discord, today they will also see Congress reach a historic bipartisan agreement to reopen the government and avert a default on the nation’s bills.”
Sen. Mitch McConnell: “For today, the relief we hope for is to reopen the government, avoid default and protect the historic cuts we achieved under the Budget Control Act. This is far less than many of us had hoped for, frankly, but it’s far better than what some had sought.”
McConnell said Republicans would continue their efforts to defund the Affordable Care Act. The deal secured by Reid and McConnell includes a $3 billion earmark for a dam project in McConnell’s home state of Kentucky. McConnell faces a tight re-election bid with a tea party-aligned challenger next year.
The partial government shutdown entrenched divides in the Republican Party, which were further underscored Wednesday when Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz interrupted news coverage of the deal by holding his own press conference at the same time Sen. Mitch McConnell was speaking on the Senate floor. CNN abruptly switched its coverage to Cruz just as McConnell began to talk.
Sen. Mitch McConnell: “This has been a long, challenging few weeks for Congress and for the country. It’s my hope that today we can put some…”
During his remarks, Cruz praised House Republicans and criticized the Senate deal to reopen the government.
Sen. Ted Cruz: “The House of Representatives has taken a bold stance listening to the American people, but unfortunately the United States Senate has refused to do likewise. The United States Senate has stayed with the traditional approach of the Washington establishment of maintaining the status quo and doing nothing to respond to the suffering that 'Obamacare' is causing millions of Americans.”
Cruz staged a marathon filibuster last month to defend the Republican push to defund the Affordable Care Act, an effort which led to the government shutdown.
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz’s role in the fiscal standoff has prompted his hometown newspaper, the Houston Chronicle, to reverse its endorsement of him. In an editorial, the Chronicle said Cruz’s predecessor, Kay Bailey Hutchison, would have been more inclined to negotiate with Democrats and avoid the government shutdown. They wrote: “When we endorsed Ted Cruz in last November’s general election, we did so with many reservations and at least one specific recommendation — that he follow Hutchison’s example in his conduct as a senator. Obviously, he has not done so. Cruz has been part of the problem in specific situations where Hutchison would have been part of the solution,” they wrote.
The easing of the fiscal standoff has raised hopes Congress may now consider other matters, including a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented people. Groups demanding an end to unprecedented deportations under President Obama have ramped up their call for comprehensive immigration reform recently with a series of direct actions from Washington, D.C., to Arizona. In an interview with Univision’s Los Angeles affiliate this week, President Obama vowed to push for reform the day after the fiscal crisis was resolved.
President Obama: “Once that’s done, the day after, I’m going to be pushing to say, 'Call a vote on immigration reform.' If I have to join with other advocates and continue to speak out on that and keep pushing, I’m going to do so, because I think it’s really important for the country, and now is the time to do it.”
The Washington Post has revealed how the National Security Agency works extensively with the CIA to gather information on potential drone victims as part of the Obama administration’s assassination program. The article, based on documents from Edward Snowden, describes the case of Hassan Ghul, a Pakistani man who provided key information that helped the CIA find Osama bin Laden. Documents show a secret NSA unit known as the Counter-Terrorism Mission Aligned Cell, or CT MAC, tracked Ghul for a year before an email from his wife was used to locate his household and kill him in a drone strike last October. The NSA deployed an “arsenal of cyber-espionage tools” to find Ghul, “secretly seizing control of laptops, siphoning audio files and other messages, and tracking radio transmissions to determine where Ghul might 'bed down.'” While officials say the NSA has senior analysts deployed alongside CIA counterparts at almost every major U.S. embassy or military base abroad, the article highlights the agency’s vast efforts in northwest Pakistan. One former official compared the NSA’s powers to the CIA’s high-tech Information Operations Center, saying, “if you wanted huge coverage of the [Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan], NSA had 10 times the manpower, 20 times the budget and 100 times the brainpower.” The Washington Post said it was withholding “many details” about the missions “at the request of U.S. intelligence officials.”
Iran, the United States and five other countries have wrapped up two days of talks in Geneva over Iran’s disputed nuclear program. The parties agreed to meet again in early November to continue negotiations that Iran hopes will lead to an easing of devastating sanctions. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who led the talks, read a joint statement issued with her Iranian counterpart.
Catherine Ashton: “Building on the positive atmosphere of the first ministerial meeting held in New York on the 26th of September, the foreign minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran presented an outline of a plan as a proposed basis for negotiation, which is being carefully considered by the E3+3 as an important contribution.”
JPMorgan Chase has agreed to pay $100 million and admit its traders acted “recklessly” during a series of damaging deals in London last year. It is the latest in a series of fines over the so-called London Whale trades that cost JPMorgan more than $6 billion and derailed financial markets worldwide. The case marked the first use by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission of a new rule enabled by the Dodd-Frank Act that lowered the bar for proving companies manipulated financial markets.
In New Brunswick, Canadian police have descended on an encampment of residents, including members of the Mi’kmaq First Nation, who have been holding a weeks-long blockade to prevent fracking — the process of blasting water and chemicals into shale rock to extract natural gas. The Texas-based company Southwestern Energy (SWN) wants to conduct exploration in the area, which the protesters believe would lead to fracking. Since the summer, SWN’s efforts have been repeatedly thwarted by blockades and other direct actions. For more than two weeks, area residents have shut down Route 134, which leads to an equipment compound used by the company. The protesters say fracking would pollute their drinking water.
Pamela Ross, New Brunswick resident: “It’s not worth risking our water. Even if they drill five wells and nothing happens, if they drill the sixth well and it could be a disaster, and it’s just — our water is not worth it, our land is not worth it, and the future generations deserve better.”
Suzanne Patles, Mi’kmaq Warrior Society: “This barricade that has been happening here at SWN resource compound has been costing the company an upwards of $60,000 per day, which is what they have stated in their court proceedings.”
In breaking news, early this morning, about 50 Royal Canadian Mounted Police descended on the blockade in an attempt to break it up. Sources at the scene say Molotov cocktails flew out of the encampment. At least one person has reportedly been arrested.
A new report by the Worker Rights Consortium has found the majority of workers in Haiti’s garment industry are being denied nearly a third of the wages they are legally owed due to widespread wage theft. The new evidence builds on an earlier report that found every single one of Haiti’s export garment factories was illegally shortchanging workers. Workers in Haiti make clothes for U.S. retailers including Gap, Target, Kohl’s, Levi’s and Wal-Mart. The report highlighted abuses at the Caracol Industrial Park, a new factory complex heavily subsidized by the U.S. State Department, the Inter-American Development Bank and the Clinton Foundation and touted as a key part of Haiti’s post-earthquake recovery. The report found that, on average, workers at the complex are paid 34 percent less than the law requires. Haiti’s minimum wage for garment workers is between 60 and 90 cents an hour. More than three-quarters of workers interviewed for the report said they could not afford three meals a day.
A boat carrying 15 people believed to be migrants from Haiti and Jamaica capsized off the shore of Miami Wednesday, killing four of the six women who were on board. The surviving 11 people have been detained by immigration authorities.
A Missouri prosecutor who dropped charges in the Maryville rape case that has ignited national outrage says he will ask a special prosecutor to re-examine the case. The victim, Daisy Coleman, says she was given alcohol and raped during a gathering of high-school athletes last year while another teen filmed the incident on his phone. The 14-year-old was then dumped on her porch in below-freezing temperatures, barely conscious. Her 13-year-old friend also says she was sexually assaulted the same night. Despite reported evidence and interviews supporting the case, prosecutors dropped charges against Daisy’s accused rapist, Matthew Barnett, a well-connected football player, and her family faced such constant harassment they say they were forced to leave town. The prosecutor’s announcement came a day after Missouri’s lieutenant governor called for a grand jury to review the case.
In New York City, students and alumni of the City University of New York gathered at John Jay College Wednesday evening to protest former CIA director and military general David Petraeus as he was honored at a gala. Petraeus commanded U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is now teaching a course at CUNY where he has routinely faced protests over his role in U.S. abuses abroad. CUNY alumnus Josmar Trujillo spoke at Wednesday’s action.
Josmar Trujillo: “We’re angry at the fact that, you know, he’s being not only given an opportunity to teach, but he’s being honored and regaled and has fundraisers thrown in his name. We have to say, no, this is beyond academic freedom. This is a complete kind of indoctrination into something which is the idea that America is so exceptional that we can do whatever we want, and the people that do whatever they want and do things even against the will of most of the international community can now, you know, continue to have influence in the society. Our responsibility is to make sure they never have any more influence ever again.”
Six CUNY students are facing charges for protesting Petraeus last month. Two of them are due back in court today.
Newark Mayor Cory Booker has won the special U.S. Senate election in New Jersey. Booker, a Democrat, defeated Republican Steve Lonegan to fill the seat left open by the death of Sen. Frank Lautenberg. Booker is New Jersey’s first African-American senator and the only elected African American now in the Senate.