On a mini-vacation in sunny Palm Springs, Calif., President Obama signed two bills that could mark a big thaw in partisan tensions back in Washington, D.C.
Obama has signed into law a debt-limit hike and a restoration of COLA adjustments for military retirees, both of which passed Congress on Wednesday.
He did so after a round of golf with three high-school buddies from Hawaii, at the Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, Calif., where it was 84 degrees. After meeting with King Abdullah of Jordan in California last night, Obama will return to D.C. on Monday — where the weather is, well, a less forgiving 36 degrees.
The clean debt-limit hike has been heralded as a sign that Washington will see fewer impasses over borrowing authority, as Republicans backed away this week from demanding budget cuts to accompany an increase. Those demands had been the official GOP stance since 2011, when a stalemate over the debt limit led to a U.S. credit downgrade and presaged more than two years of budget crises, including a government shutdown this past fall.
Also on Wednesday, the Senate approved a restoration of full COLAs for military retiree benefits, just two months after Congress reduced benefit increases tied to cost of living/inflation in its bipartisan budget deal. ABC’s Arlette Saenz reported on that bill:
In December, the budget deal crafted by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., cut the cost of living adjustment for military pensions to one percent below the rate of inflation for veterans younger than age 62 starting in 2015.
The bill will restore the COLA cuts for all current retirees and anyone who enlisted before Jan. 1. The bill will pay to restore the COLA benefits by extending Medicare cuts that went into place during the so-called “sequester” last year. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., had floated his own version of the bill, which did not include additional cuts to pay for the restoration of benefits, but the Senate agreed to adopt the House measure instead.
In the debt-limit hike, Republicans gave up a major red line for tea partiers. In paying for the COLA increase, Democrats gave way to a longstanding demand of GOP leaders, as pay-fors have been a repeated GOP sticking point with Democratic spending initiatives like unemployment insurance.