WASHINGTON The Senate's top two leaders announced a bipartisan deal Wednesday to reopen the federal government after a 16-day partial shutdown as well as avert an unprecedented debt default.
"The compromise we reached will provide our economy with the stability it desperately needs," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who reached the agreement with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
"This has been a long, challenging few weeks for Congress and for the country. It is my hope that today we can put some of those most urgent issues behind us," McConnell said.
House and Senate leaders were still negotiating how to maneuver the legislation through both chambers and get it to President Obama's desk before the Oct. 17 deadline to raise the debt ceiling. However, there was an air of certainty on Capitol Hill now that a formal deal is at hand and votes were expected first in the Senate on Wednesday.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the House would not block a vote on the Senate deal. "The House has fought with everything it has" against the health care law, but he would not allow the risk of default to occur tomorrow. Boehner said Republicans were committed to keeping up the healthcare fight, but would use "smart, targeted strikes" and aggressive oversight in the future. Republicans remain opposed to new taxes, he said.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said the president "looks forward to Congress acting so that he can sign legislation that will reopen the government and remove this threat from our economy."
Prompt Senate passage appeared all but certain after Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said he would not filibuster the deal. "There's nothing to be gained from delaying this vote one day or two days, the outcome will be same," said Cruz, who gained national attention for his 21-hour filibuster-style speech during a budget debate on his opposition to President Obama's health care law.
The narrow package includes a stopgap measure that would fund the government through Jan. 15, suspend the debt ceiling until Feb. 7 and establish a framework for formal budget negotiations to begin. Negotiators would be tasked with reporting out by Dec. 13 recommendations for longer-term spending levels and deficit reduction. It does not include any significant provisions affecting the Affordable Care Act.
Senate leaders reasserted control of negotiations after Boehner failed Tuesday to corral GOP lawmakers behind a competing budget proposal. House GOP leaders will probably have to rely on House Democrats to pass the Senate package.
"You're going to see a lot of Democrats vote for it, and you might get a few Republicans to vote for it, but I don't think you'll see a wide swath of our conservative caucus vote for what comes over from the Senate," Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis., said on MSNBC's Morning Joe.
Conservative outside groups railed against the Senate deal as a "complete surrender" to Democrats, according to FreedomWorks. The group joined a trio that includes Club for Growth and Heritage Action in advising lawmakers to oppose the plan because they will use it to rank Republicans in their annual scorecards.
The shutdown and debt ceiling fight have been politically bruising for the GOP, but Carney declined to say the end result was a victory for Democrats. "There are no winners here," he said. "We said that from the beginning, and we're going to say it right up to the end because it's true. The American people have paid a price for this. And nobody who's sent here to Washington by the American people can call themselves a winner if the American people have paid a price for what's happened. And the economy has suffered because of it, and it was wholly unnecessary."
The battle began when House Republicans tried repeatedly to attach measures to a stopgap funding bill that would delay or defund Obama's health care law. Those efforts were rejected by the White House and Senate Democrats.
Republicans then sought to roll the shutdown fight into the next budget deadline to raise the debt ceiling.
Initially, House GOP leaders sought a broad package of spending cuts and financial changes to raise the $16.7 trillion debt limit. But House Republicans never put forward the plan, and the lack of direction exposed cracks between House Republicans and their Senate counterparts, who voiced increasing frustrations about the strategy.
A series of public opinion polls in the past two weeks showed the Republican Party tanking in popularity, which Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., recently called "devastating."
"I think it's obvious that we are now seeing the end of this agonizing odyssey that this body has been put through, but far more importantly, the American people have been put through," McCain said Wednesday, "It's one of the more shameful chapters that I have seen in the years that I have spent here in the Senate."
In recent days, Reid and McConnell began bipartisan talks to find a way out of the impasse, but McConnell put the brakes on the talks when Boehner again attempted to advance a GOP alternative. When Boehner failed Tuesday, Reid and McConnell quickly resumed talks late Tuesday. Each leader offered public assurances that a deal would be reached in time to avoid default.
Contributing: David Jackson
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