Cutting it close as usual, on the day before the government would run out of money, Congress agreed to raise the debt ceiling and end the 16-day partial government shutdown. Basically, both sides dropped their demands and kicked the can down the road. The government will be funded until January 15, and the debt limit will rise until February 7. In the meantime, a commission will be appointed to try to resolve the controversies.
The Senate overwhelmingly approved legislation Wednesday night to raise the debt limit through Feb. 7 and end the 16-day-old government shutdown, as Republicans gave up on their costly bid to force President Obama to delay his landmark health-care law.
By a vote of 81 to 18, the upper chamber sent the 35-page bill to the House of Representatives, where GOP leaders said they were urging their caucus to support the measure in a vote that was expected later Wednesday night. Quick approval in the House would mean that Obama could sign the bill before midnight, ensuring that the U.S. Treasury would not exhaust its borrowing power and sending hundreds of thousands of federal workers back on the job Thursday.
“We fought the good fight; we just didn’t win,” House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said in an interview with conservative radio host Bill Cunningham.
Boehner and other GOP leaders acknowledged defeat hours after Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced terms of their deal on the Senate floor, drawing support from the White House. The Senate plan avoids any major changes to the Affordable Care Act, a major victory for Democrats and a repudiation to Republicans who for weeks tried to use the threat of a shutdown and potential default to force changes in the law.
Boehner, along with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), told Republicans at a closed-door afternoon meeting that they all plan to vote for the deal, said Aaron Schock (R-Ill.). The speaker said Republicans nevertheless would continue in other ways to try to force Obama to slow or repeal portions of his health-care law.
Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), one of the more conservative voices in the House GOP caucus, told CNN on Wednesday afternoon: “We lost. That’s it. You’re absolutely right. The folks who said we were going to lose turned out to be correct. I can’t argue that.”
In addition to lifting the $16.7 trillion debt limit , the emerging measure would fund the government through Jan. 15, delaying the next threat of a shutdown until after the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. It would set up a conference committee to hammer out broader budget issues, such as whether to replace deep cuts to agency budgets known as the sequester with other savings.
But the bill’s timeline sets up another potentially bitter showdown over spending cuts and entitlement programs that will unfold in the halls of Congress over the next four months.
In a small Democratic concession on the Affordable Care Act, Republicans got additional safeguards to ensure that people who receive subsidies to buy health insurance are, in fact, eligible.