Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday tried to save face for Republicans in the wake of a debt ceiling and spending deal that highly favors Democrats by promoting the spending cuts that the compromise includes.
"This is far less than many of us had hoped for frankly, but it is far better than some of us had sought," McConnell, R-Ky., said on the Senate floor after Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced the agreement.
The deal between Reid and McConnell, if passed, would be a clear victory for Democrats, who sought a "clean" funding bill to re-open the government and raise the nation's $16.7 trillion borrowing limit without any strings attached.
Democrats mostly achieved that goal, though they gave in to a GOP demand for income verification of people seeking health insurance subsidies under the new health care law.
Republicans sought major concessions related to the new health care law — either a defunding or delaying its implementation.
But the GOP did not even win removal of Obamacare's 2.3 percent medical device tax that both parties dislike. And they did not win a provision to strike health care subsidies for Congress and staff.
The biggest victory for the GOP is that the short-term spending bill that will last until Jan. 15 preserves the sequester-level spending cap of $986 million called for in the 2011 Budget Control Act.
"Republicans remain determined to repeal this terrible law," McConnell said of Obamacare. "But 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."
The Senate's top Republican added, "This has been a top priority for me and my colleagues throughout this debate."
Under the deal announced Wednesday to raise the borrowing limit and fund the government, the House and Senate must hash out a long-term budget agreement by Dec. 15. Republicans will seek cuts to spending, entitlement reform and changes in the tax code. Democrats are determined to reverse the sequester cuts, in part by raising revenue that would negate the need for additional reductions.
"I know that some say that is going to be hard," Reid said in announcing the budget conference. "But what we do is hard, and this is really hard here but I think we can get it done."
If there is no deal on the 2014 budget by mid-January the budget control law requires another round of major sequester cuts — about $988 billion — across the entire discretionary budget.