WASHINGTON, D.C. — The House of Representatives late Wednesday night passed a Senate-brokered bill to fully reopen the government and raise the federal government’s debt ceiling.
Weeks of bitter stalemate gave way to a frenetic few hours of legislative action Wednesday to address the federal government’s latest budgetary crisis — an episode marked by rare bipartisanship, but also the very real prospect of more fights to come.
The relatively rapid movement, by congressional standards, came on the 16th day of the partial government shutdown and one day before the Treasury Department had warned the nation could run out of money to pay its bills unless it raises its borrowing limit.
If legislation brokered by Democratic and Republican leaders in the Senate gets to his desk, President Barack Obama has vowed to get things back up and running as soon as possible.
“I will sign it immediately,” the President said. “We’ll begin reopening our government immediately.”
Still, it’s not a done deal.
The lone obstacle — as it’s been throughout this process, from Democrats’ standpoint — is the GOP-led House. Its members began debating the legislation at about 9:30 p.m. ET, about an hour after the Senate passed the same measure by an overwhelming 81 to 18 vote. They began voting shortly before 10 p.m.
For all its resistance to date, even staunch conservatives who say they will vote “no” concede the measure should easily pass the House. If it does, that would mean hundreds of thousands of furloughed government workers will very soon return to work, national parks will reopen and investors can rest easier knowing a debt default isn’t imminent.
“We’ve been able to come together for a lot of different reasons,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters after that vote of his work with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to negotiate a deal.
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.
The final deal worked out by Senate leaders extended 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,” House Speaker John Boehner told a radio station in his home state of Ohio.
Just before the vote, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas — a tea party favorite who is vehemently opposed to the final bill — 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.