Congressional Republicans conceded defeat on Wednesday in a bitter budget fight with President Obama over the new healthcare law as the House and Senate approved last-minute legislation ending a 16-day government shutdown and extending federal borrowing power to avert a financial default with potentially worldwide economic repercussions.
The Senate voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday evening, 81 to 19, to approve a proposal by the chamber’s Republican and Democratic leaders after the House on Tuesday was unable to make progress with any resolution. This took place after the Treasury Department warned that it could run out of money to pay national obligations within a day.
A few hours later the House followed suit, voting 285 to 144 to approve the Senate plan. This meant that the government would fund through Jan. 15, 2014 and raise the debt limit through Feb 7, 2014. The bill was signed by President Obama at around 12:30 a.m. Thursday.
“There’s a lot of work ahead of us, including our need to earn back the trust of the American people that’s been lost over the last few weeks,” said President Obama. “And we can begin to do that by addressing the real issues that they care about.” Mr. Obama also said, “We’ve got to get out of the habit of governing by crisis. We could get all these things done even this year, if everybody comes together in a spirit of, how are we going to move this country forward and put the last three weeks behind us?”
With the agreement to reopen the government, the House and Senate are directed to hold talks and reach accord by Dec. 13 on a long-term blueprint for tax and spending policies over the next decade. Mr. Obama consistently said through the standoff that he was willing to have a wide-ranging budge negotiation once the government was reopened and the debt limit was raised.
However, there were no guarantees that the Congress would not be at loggerheads again by mid-January, and there is skepticism in both parties that Representatives Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin and Senator Patty Murry of Washington, who will lead the budget negotiations, can bridge the chasm between them.
“This moves us into the next phase of the same debate,” said Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Democrat. “Our hope is now that the Speaker Boehner and his caucus have played out their scenario with a tragic outcome, perhaps they’ll be willing to be more constructive.” Some of the government officials were already looking forward to the next round. “I’ll vote against it,” said Representative John C. Fleming, Republican of Louisiana, referring to the Senate plan. “But that will get us into Round 2. See, we’re going to start this all over again.”