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Goverment reopens after congress ends 16-day shutdown

Associated Press | 10/17/2013, 10:10 a.m. | Updated on 10/17/2013, 10:10 a.m.
President Barack Obama walks out to make a statement to reporters in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013. The Senate voted to avoid a financial default and reopen the government after a 16-day partial shutdown and the measure now heads to the House, which is expected to back the bill before day's end. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

"When the stakes are highest, Mitch McConnell can always be counted on to sell out conservatives," Matt Bevin said. In the House, conservatives praised Boehner for tenacity.

The Senate approved the legislation by an 81-18 vote; the House followed suit by a tally of 285-144, with 87 Republicans in favor and 144 against, breaking an informal rule that a majority of the majority party is supposed to carry legislation. Democrats unanimously supported the bill, even though it locks in funding at levels required by across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration.

The legislation would fund the government through Jan. 15 and permit it to borrow normally through Feb. 7, though Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew retains the capacity to employ accounting maneuvers to create wiggle room on the debt limit into mid-March or so.

Most House Republicans opposed the compromise bill for failing to do anything about deficits and debt.

"All this does is delay this fight four months," Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., said. "We need to get to the underlying cause of the problem, which is our out-of-control spending and deficits, and fix it before it's too late and we go down the toilet to bankruptcy because that's where America is headed."

The bill's passage was only a temporary truce that sets up another collision between Obama and Republicans over spending and borrowing early next year. It's the second time this year that Congress has passed legislation to increase the government's borrowing cap with few if any conditions on the president, reversing a 2011 precedent in which the threat of default was used to extract $2.1 trillion in spending cuts from a politically wounded Obama.

"With the shutdown behind us," Obama said after the Senate vote, "we now have an opportunity to focus on a sensible budget that is responsible, that is fair and that helps hardworking people all across this country."

At the same time, House-Senate talks will begin on a broader budget pact in hopes of curbing deficits and easing across-the-board budget cuts that have slammed the Pentagon and domestic agencies alike. Such agreements have proven elusive in the current era of divided government.

"No one thinks this will be easy" Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray, D-Wash., said of budget negotiations. Murray and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., along with their ranking minority members, immediately scheduled a breakfast meeting for Thursday to break the ice.