Tribune staff and wire reports
1:19 AM EDT, October 17, 2013
WASHINGTON -- Capping weeks of political brinkmanship that had unnerved global markets, President Barack Obama quickly signed an 11th-hour deal passed by Congress to end a partial government shutdown and pull the world's biggest economy back from the brink of a historic debt default.
A 285-144 vote in the House followed an overwhelming vote in the Senate on the agreement negotiated by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to end a tense political standoff that shut down federal programs for 16 days and led to the furlough of hundreds of thousands of federal workers.
The Democratic-led Senate passed the measure on a 81-18 vote and Obama signed the bill into law about 11:30 CST.
The White House budget office said federal workers should plan to return to work on Thursday morning.
The deal makes no significant changes in President Obama’s healthcare law, which Republicans, particularly in the House, had previously demanded. Democrats provided the additional votes needed to pass the bill in the Republican-led House.
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), speaking earlier to his rank-and-file, said the party lost the battle, but would live to fight another day. But the compromise was welcomed by moderates who had questioned the Republican strategy of using a must-pass spending bill as leverage to force changes to the Affordable Care Act.
“I’m genuinely pleased that cooler heads have finally prevailed,” Rep. Charlie Dent, a moderate Pennsylvania Republican, said shortly before the vote. The bill, he said, “must be supported, but it should not be celebrated.”
“It’s not a win for anyone, particularly the institution of Congress or the presidency for that matter. The bill represents the conclusion of a difficult period from which I hope that many can draw important lessons.”
The bill provides funding to keep the government running through Jan. 15, and allows borrowing to continue through Feb. 7. It also provides that furloughed federal workers would receive back pay.
In brief remarks at the White House after the Senate vote, President Obama thanked leaders for working together.
"We can begin to lift this cloud of uncertainty and unease from our businesses and from the American people," he said.
Obama said he hoped lawmakers would take the opportunity to craft a “sensible budget.”
“Hopefully next time it won’t be in the 11th hour,” he said. “We’ve got to get out of the habit of governing by crisis.”
As he was walking out of the briefing room, a reporter asked if this would happen again in just a few months.
"No," he said, and continued walking.
Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk, part of a bipartisan group who worked on the measure, said in a statement that "Congress put country over party."
"It is my hope both parties will continue working together on a big deal with spending cuts and reforms to entitlements and the tax code so that we can give our markets and the American people the stability they need and deserve."The agreement would extend U.S. borrowing authority until Feb. 7, although the Treasury Department would have tools to temporarily extend its borrowing capacity beyond that date if Congress failed to act early next year.
The agreement also would fund government agencies until Jan. 15, ending a partial government shutdown that began with the new fiscal year on Oct. 1.
The stand-off between Republicans and the White House over funding the government forced the temporary lay-off of hundreds of thousands of federal workers from October 1 and created concern that crisis-driven politics was the "new normal" in Washington.
Senator John McCain, whose fellow Republicans triggered the crisis with demands that the Democratic president's "Obamacare" healthcare reform law be defunded, said earlier on Wednesday the deal marked the "end of an agonizing odyssey" for Americans.
"It is one of the most shameful chapters I have seen in the years I've spent in the Senate," said McCain, who had warned Republicans not to link their demands for Obamacare changes to the debt limit or government spending bill. Polls showed Republicans took a hit in public opinion over the standoff.
Although the deal would only extend U.S. borrowing authority until Feb. 7, the Treasury Department would have tools to temporarily extend its borrowing capacity beyond that date if Congress failed to act early next year.
In addition to lifting the federal debt limit, the deal calls for creating a House-Senate bipartisan panel to try to come up with long-term deficit-reduction ideas that would have to be approved by the full Congress. Their work would have to be completed by Dec. 13.
The agreement also includes some income verification procedures for those seeking subsidies under the 2010 healthcare law. But Republicans surrendered on their latest attempt to delay or gut the healthcare package or include major changes, including the elimination of a medical device tax.
The congressional vote signaled a temporary ceasefire between Republicans and the White House in the latest struggle over spending and deficits that has at times paralyzed both decision-making and basic functions of government.
The political dysfunction has worried U.S. allies and creditors such as China, the biggest foreign holder of U.S. debt, and raised questions about the impact on America's prestige. The Treasury has said it risks hurting the country's reputation as a safe haven and stable financial center.
Reid and McConnell announced the fiscal agreement on the Senate floor earlier in the day, and its passage was eased when the main Republican critic of the deal, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, said he would not use procedural moves to delay a vote.
The agreement is a victory for Obama, who held firm and refused to negotiate on changes to the healthcare law, and a defeat for Republicans who have suffered a backlash from the American public, according to public opinion polls.
There was no immediate sign that House Speaker John Boehner's leadership position was at risk. Several Republican lawmakers suggested he may have strengthened his standing among the rank-and-file, who gave him a standing ovation at an afternoon meeting.
The fight over Obamacare rapidly grew into a brawl over the debt ceiling, threatening a default that global financial organizations warned could throw the United States back into recession and cause a global economic disaster.
Fitch Ratings had warned on Tuesday that it could cut the U.S. sovereign credit rating from AAA, citing the political brinkmanship over raising the debt ceiling.
A resolution to the crisis cannot come soon enough for many companies. American consumers have put away their wallets, at least temporarily, instead of spending on big-ticket items like cars and recreational vehicles.
HOW ILLINOIS LEGISLATORS VOTED
Illinoisans' roll-call votes Wednesday on the bipartisan deal to end the partial government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling:
Democrats yes: Bustos, D. Davis, Duckworth, Enyart, Foster, Gutierrez, Kelly, Lipinski, Quigley, Schakowsky, Schneider
Republicans yes: R. Davis, Kinzinger, Roskam, Schock, Shimkus
Republican no: Hultgren
Democrat not voting: Rush
Democrat yes: Durbin
Republican yes: Kirk
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