By Brian Tumulty, Gannett Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - The two New York Republicans who opposed an agreement to end the partial government shutdown and avert a default say Congress merely postponed the tough fiscal decisions it eventually will have to make.
Reps. Tom Reed of Corning and Chris Collins of the Buffalo area were among 144 House Republicans who voted no on the agreement Wednesday.
They also were the only members of New York's congressional delegation to vote against it.
"This question of our national debt... and our potential currency crisis need to be dealt with, and there was nothing, nothing in the proposal last night that dealt with those issues,'' Reed said in a conference call with reporters Thursday. "And to me, it was simply about saying we need to deal with this question now, sooner rather than later. These problems don't get easier with time, they get worse.''
Collins said he doesn't think President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada will back away from their positions.
"I share the frustration of all Americans that the country is not growing, but it does take negotiations that are in good faith, and the president has not yet shown any indication to negotiate on anything,'' Collins said in an interview before Wednesday's vote. "If he does now, I am going to be very pleased. But we haven't seen it and the rhetoric of the last three months would not indicate he's ready right now.''
Eighty-seven House Republicans - including New Yorkers Richard Hanna of Oneida County, Chris Gibson of Kinderhook, Michel Grimm of Staten Island and Peter King of Long Island - supported the agreement to fund federal agencies through Jan. 15 and suspend the debt ceiling through Feb. 7.
Both New York senators and all but one of the state's 21 House Democrats also supported the deal. Democratic Rep. Carolyn McCarthy of Long Island missed the vote because she is on medical leave.
The agreement, which Obama signed around midnight Wednesday, calls for House and Senate negotiators to recommend a long-term budget plan by Dec. 13. Members of the negotiating teams were appointed Wednesday night.
Among them is New York Rep. Nita Lowey, ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee.
The chairpersons of the two teams - Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis. - met for breakfast Thursday. They were joined by Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, and Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee.
Budget negotiators used to meet every spring to work out a top-line number on discretionary spending for the next fiscal year and negotiate spending amounts for individual agencies, although such a meeting hasn't taken place for several years.
Until this week, Republicans in the House and Senate had blocked the appointment of negotiators on spending for fiscal 2014, which began Oct. 1.
Reed said the agreement to appointment budget negotiators "does nothing to the underlying debt'' and doesn't reduce spending.
"Appointing conferees on the budget process is something that I appreciate and I hope they are sincere on it,'' Reed said. "And I will work with those conferees.''
Collins also said he's "an optimist'' about the upcoming budget negotiations.
"I can wish them a lot of success but I am certainly disappointed we did nothing to change the trajectory of our deficit,'' he said.
Looking back on the 16-day partial government shutdown, Reed acknowledged that members of his party pursued an "unachievable'' strategy to defund the 2010 health care law. But he said an agreement to cut spending should have been part of the final deal.
"I question the strategy that was deployed because you are essentially telling the American people that you are going to do something that you know you cannot do, given the facts at hand,'' Reed said. "So to me it was a poor strategy. I questioned that strategy, but we found ourselves in there.''