Congress approves deal on shutdown, debt

"I had hoped we would not just be kicking the can down the road," the Baltimore County lawmaker said. "And that's all this bill does."

Under the legislation, the nation's debt limit would be suspended until Feb. 7 to allow continued borrowing. Treasury officials would be able to use so-called "extraordinary measures" to temporarily pay bills after that date, meaning that the next debt ceiling crunch would probably not occur until the spring.

The agreement also includes several provisions particularly significant for Maryland.

Furloughed federal workers will receive retroactive pay, a measure that several lawmakers from the region — including Cardin — pushed to include. Paying those workers for lost time will go a long way toward limiting the economic impact of the shutdown, economists say.

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski and Cardin announced Wednesday that the agreement would also allow federal employees to receive a 1 percent raise in January that Obama had previously called for. Federal worker pay has been frozen for three years.

"The promise of a modest pay raise and back pay for furloughed government employees are good first steps in recognizing the value of federal workers," said Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat and chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. "They have been the targets of unending attacks."

On the other hand, the deal made no changes to the deep federal budget cuts known as sequestration, despite a last-minute effort by Democrats to soften the impact. The measure's timing will set up an end-of-the-year clash in Congress over whether the sequestration cuts will continue for another year.

Some lawmakers hope to trade those cuts for reductions in entitlement spending.

"That's a fulcrum where maybe we can make some more gains toward strengthening our country," Sen. Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican, said of the brewing year-end budget fight. "There's actually some bipartisan support for that kind of thing happening."

But others viewed the short-term agreement warily, arguing lawmakers were just as likely to wind up in a stalemate again in December. And some analysts said the short-term extension would continue the uncertainty that contractors and federal employees have endured for more than two years.

Mei Xu, CEO of Chesapeake Bay Candle, said she made a similar point at a White House meeting with business leaders earlier this month. Xu said the company wants to add a third shift at its Glen Burnie facility but is hesitant to do so out of concern that Washington could roil the economy with another showdown.

"When you have that kind of deadline, it's always a bad psychological thing for customers," Xu said. "Any kind of a standoff is a sign that our government is not working."

Nearly 90 percent of Marylanders said they were concerned about the shutdown's impact on the U.S. economy, according to a poll to be released Thursday by Gonzales Research & Marketing Strategies. Nearly 6 in 10 approve of the job Obama is doing, a 6 percentage point drop since January, the poll showed.

Conservative lawmakers in both chambers vowed to continue their fight in the next budget battle coming this winter.

"This is Washington at its worst," Sen. Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, said shortly before the Senate vote.

Democrats chastised Republicans for shutting down the government for more than two weeks in their bid to kill Obamacare.

"We've ended up just where we started," said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, a New York Democrat, "but at a cost, and it never should have been this way."

The Tribune Washington Bureau contributed to this article.