Congress sends gov't funding, debt bill to Obama

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Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - Congress has passed legislation to reopen the partially-shuttered federal government and avert a potentially disastrous default on U.S. obligations, clearing the measure for President Barack Obama's promised signature.
   
Passage of the bill late Wednesday in the House and Senate ended a Washington-created crisis that closed much of government for 16 days. It came on the eve of the date the Treasury Department warned it would no longer be able to borrow to pay the government's bills.
   
The legislation was carried to passage in the House by strong support from Democrats and 87 yes votes from majority Republicans who had originally sought to use the measure to derail Obama's three-year-old health care law.
   
The legislation will reopen the government through Jan. 15 and permit Treasury to borrow normally through Feb. 7.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
 

Earlier story:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- An agreement to end the partial government shutdown and avoid a possible U.S. default easily passed the Senate and headed to the House for a vote expected later Wednesday.

If approved by the Republican-led House, the legislation would go to President Barack Obama to be signed into law by the end of Thursday -- the deadline for increasing the federal borrowing limit or risk the first default in American history.

"I will sign it immediately," Obama said after the Senate vote on Wednesday night, adding that "we'll begin reopening our government immediately."

Such quick congressional action on a measure announced earlier in the day was in stark contrast to the protracted brinksmanship of recent weeks that led to the shutdown now in its 16th day and brought the threat of default.

The agreement represented a victory for Obama and Democrats over conservative Republicans, who had tried to use the shutdown and debt ceiling deadline to wring concessions on spending cuts and dismantling the Obama's signature health care reforms.

However, the final deal worked out by Senate leaders after House Speaker John Boehner was unable to get his own Republican caucus to support a House GOP version lacked any substantive measures sought by the political right beyond extending current spending levels until January 15.

It also raised the federal borrowing limit until February 7 and set up budget negotiations between the House and Senate intended to come up with a broader spending plan for the rest of fiscal year 2014, which ends on September 30.

Another provision requiring the government to confirm the eligibility of people receiving federal subsidies under Obamacare was labeled by Democrats and the White House as minor.

"We fought the good fight; we just didn't win," Boehner told a radio station in his home state of Ohio.

In the 81 to 18 Senate vote, more than half of the chamber's Republicans joined Democrats in support.

Both chambers had to take special steps to get the legislation passed quickly, raising concerns that tea party conservatives led by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas would block or delay it in a final effort to include provisions intended to harm Obama's signature health care reforms.

Just before the vote, Cruz called the compromise terrible but did not mount a filibuster or employ other procedural moves in opposition.

He had earlier criticized his Senate colleagues for what he called their failure to listen to the American people and said the fight against Obamacare would continue.

Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York blasted Cruz and the rest of the tea party wing in Congress for what he called the "reckless, irresponsible politics of brinksmanship over the last few weeks."

"It was not America's finest moment," Schumer said.

In a brief statement before the expected House vote, Obama said politicians in Washington have to "get out of the habit of governing by crisis."

"Hopefully, next time, it will not be in the 11th hour," Obama told reporters Wednesday night, calling for both parties to work together on a budget, immigration reform and other issues.

National polls conducted since the start of the shutdown on October 1 indicate public anger with all sides over the partisan political impasse, with Republicans getting blamed more than Democrats or Obama.

Boehner and other House Republican leaders told their caucus earlier Wednesday they would vote for the agreement. Participants said the meeting ended with a standing ovation for the embattled speaker.

"Blocking the bipartisan agreement reached today by the members of the Senate will not be a tactic for us," Boehner said in a statement. "Our drive to stop the train wreck that is the president's health care law will continue."

News of the deal brought some relief to Wall Street as well as Washington, with pressure to resolve the impasse building with the approach of the Thursday deadline to raise the debt ceiling or face default.

Markets soar on agreement

U.S. stocks rose on the news of an agreement, with the benchmark Dow Jones Industrial Average jumping more than 200 points on the day.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid hailed the agreement he worked out with his GOP counterpart Mitch McConnell as "historic," saying that "in the end, political adversaries put aside their differences."

Obama praised Senate leaders for reaching a compromise, and urged Congress to act quickly, White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

In an expected gesture to hundreds of thousands of federal workers furloughed by the shutdown, the measure provides back pay for wages withheld.

McConnell fired an opening salvo for the budget talks expected to begin soon and continue until December when he said any ensuing spending deal should adhere to caps set in a 2011 law that included forced cuts known as sequestration.

"Preserving this law is critically important to the future of our country," McConnell said of the Budget Control Act, which resulted from the previous debt ceiling crisis in Washington.

The focus on an agreement shifted to the Senate after House Republicans failed on Tuesday to come up with a plan their majority could support, stymied again by demands from tea party conservatives for outcomes unacceptable to Obama and Senate Democrats, as well as some fellow Republicans.

Cruz, despite being in the Senate, is credited with spearheading the House Republican effort to attach amendments that would dismantle or defund the health care reforms known as Obamacare to previous proposals intended to end the shutdown.

All were rejected by the Democratic-led Senate, and Obama also pledged to veto them, meaning there was no chance they ever would have succeeded.

Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire called the House GOP tactic of tying Obamacare to the shutdown legislation "an ill-conceived strategy from the beginning, not a winning strategy."

However, Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa advocated continued brinksmanship to try to change Obamacare, which conservatives detest as a big-government overreach.

"If we're not willing to take a stand now, then when will we take this stand?" he told CNN's "New Day," adding that if "the conservative Republican plan had been implemented five years ago, say at the inception of what is now the Obama presidency, we would have far less debt and deficit."

Thursday marks the day the Treasury Department will run out of special accounting maneuvers to keep the nation under the legal borrowing limit. From that point on, it would have to pay the country's incoming bills and other legal obligations with an estimated $30 billion in cash, plus whatever daily revenue comes in unless Congress acted.

Carney clarified that borrowing authority would continue through Thursday.

According to the best outside estimates, the first day the government would run short of cash without more borrowing authority was between October 22 and November 1.

The prospect of the U.S. government running out of money to pay its bills and, eventually, finding it difficult to make payments on the debt itself, had economists around the world talking about dire consequences. Mutual funds, which are not allowed to hold defaulted securities, might have to dump masses of U.S. treasuries.

Ratings agency Fitch fired a warning shot Tuesday that it may downgrade the country's AAA credit rating to AA+ over the political brinksmanship and bickering in Washington that have brought the government to this point.

That could help raise interest rates on U.S. debt, putting the country deeper into the red.

Disarray among House Republicans caused confusion on Tuesday, with Boehner having to pull a proposed agreement from the floor because conservatives found it too weak.

The House proposal dropped some provisions on Obamacare but prohibited federal subsidies to the President and his administration officials as well as federal lawmakers and their staff receiving health insurance through the Affordable Care Act programs.

It also would have forbidden the Treasury from taking what it calls extraordinary measures to prevent the federal government from defaulting as cash runs low, in effect requiring hard deadlines to extend the federal debt ceiling.

House Democrats opposed the GOP proposal, which meant it couldn't pass without support from the 40 or so tea party conservatives, who wanted more spending cuts.

"It just kicks the can down the road another six weeks or two months," said Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor referred to the GOP infighting at Wednesday's caucus meeting, telling his Republican colleagues to stop beating up on each other, according to participants. Describing Cantor as impassioned, they said he implored the caucus to avoid characterizing each other as good or bad Republicans.
 

Name Party State Vote
Alexander, Lamar Republican Tennessee Yea
Ayotte, Kelly Republican New Hampshire Yea
Baldwin, Tammy Democrat Wisconsin Yea
Barrasso, John Republican Wyoming Yea
Baucus, Max Democrat Montana Yea
Begich, Mark Democrat Alaska Yea
Bennet, Michael Democrat Colorado Yea
Blumenthal, Richard Democrat Connecticut Yea
Blunt, Roy Republican Missouri Yea
Boozman, John Republican Arkansas Yea
Boxer, Barbara Democrat California Yea
Brown, Sherrod Democrat Ohio Yea
Burr, Richard Republican North Carolina Yea
Cantwell, Maria Democrat Washington Yea
Cardin, Ben Democrat Maryland Yea
Carper, Thomas Democrat Delaware Yea
Casey, Bob Democrat Pennsylvania Yea
Chambliss, Saxby Republican Georgia Yea
Chiesa, Jeffrey Republican New Jersey Yea
Coats, Dan Republican Indiana Yea
Coburn, Tom Republican Oklahoma Nay
Cochran, Thad Republican Mississippi Yea
Collins, Susan Republican Maine Yea
Coons, Christopher Democrat Delaware Yea
Corker, Bob Republican Tennessee Yea
Cornyn, John Republican Texas Nay
Crapo, Mike Republican Idaho Nay
Cruz, Ted Republican Texas Nay
Donnelly, Joe Democrat Indiana Yea
Durbin, Richard Democrat Illinois Yea
Enzi, Michael Republican Wyoming Nay
Feinstein, Dianne Democrat California Yea
Fischer, Deb Republican Nebraska Yea
Flake, Jeff Republican Arizona Yea
Franken, Al Democrat Minnesota Yea
Gillibrand, Kirsten Democrat New York Yea
Graham, Lindsey Republican South Carolina Yea
Grassley, Chuck Republican Iowa Nay
Hagan, Kay Democrat North Carolina Yea
Harkin, Tom Democrat Iowa Yea
Hatch, Orrin Republican Utah Yea
Heinrich, Martin Democrat New Mexico Yea
Heitkamp, Heidi Democrat North Dakota Yea
Heller, Dean Republican Nevada Nay
Hirono, Mazie Democrat Hawaii Yea
Hoeven, John Republican North Dakota Yea
Inhofe, Jim Republican Oklahoma Not Voting
Isakson, Johnny Republican Georgia Yea
Johanns, Mike Republican Nebraska Yea
Johnson, Tim Democrat South Dakota Yea
Johnson, Ron Republican Wisconsin Nay
Kaine, Timothy Democrat Virginia Yea
King, Angus Independent Maine Yea
Kirk, Mark Republican Illinois Yea
Klobuchar, Amy Democrat Minnesota Yea
Landrieu, Mary Democrat Louisiana Yea
Leahy, Patrick Democrat Vermont Yea
Lee, Mike Republican Utah Nay
Levin, Carl Democrat Michigan Yea
Manchin, Joe Democrat West Virginia Yea
Markey, Edward Democrat Massachusetts Yea
McCain, John Republican Arizona Yea
McCaskill, Claire Democrat Missouri Yea
McConnell, Mitch Republican Kentucky Yea
Menendez, Robert Democrat New Jersey Yea
Merkley, Jeff Democrat Oregon Yea
Mikulski, Barbara Democrat Maryland Yea
Moran, Jerry Republican Kansas Yea
Murkowski, Lisa Republican Alaska Yea
Murphy, Christopher Democrat Connecticut Yea
Murray, Patty Democrat Washington Yea
Nelson, Bill Democrat Florida Yea
Paul, Rand Republican Kentucky Nay
Portman, Rob Republican Ohio Yea
Pryor, Mark Democrat Arkansas Yea
Reed, John Democrat Rhode Island Yea
Reid, Harry Democrat Nevada Yea
Risch, James Republican Idaho Nay
Roberts, Pat Republican Kansas Nay
Rockefeller, Jay Democrat West Virginia Yea
Rubio, Marco Republican Florida Nay
Sanders, Bernie Independent Vermont Yea
Schatz, Brian Democrat Hawaii Yea
Schumer, Charles Democrat New York Yea
Scott, Timothy Republican South Carolina Nay
Sessions, Jeff Republican Alabama Nay
Shaheen, Jeanne Democrat New Hampshire Yea
Shelby, Richard Republican Alabama Nay
Stabenow, Debbie Democrat Michigan Yea
Tester, Jon Democrat Montana Yea
Thune, John Republican South Dakota Yea
Toomey, Pat Republican Pennsylvania Nay
Udall, Mark Democrat Colorado Yea
Udall, Tom Democrat New Mexico Yea
Vitter, David Republican Louisiana Nay
Warner, Mark Democrat Virginia Yea
Warren, Elizabeth Democrat Massachusetts Yea
Whitehouse, Sheldon Democrat Rhode Island Yea
Wicker, Roger Republican Mississippi Yea
Wyden, Ron Democrat Oregon Yea

 

CNN's Ben Brumfield, Greg Botelho, Michael Pearson, Paul Steinhauser, Ashley Killough, Craig Broffman, Jim Acosta, Dana Bash, Deirdre Walsh, Mark Preston, Dan Merica, Brianna Keilar and Janet DiGiacomo contributed to this report.

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