The birds are chirping. The markets are up. Congress has a deal.
Senate leaders announced midday Wednesday they had struck a bargain to re-open the federal government until Jan. 15, lift the debt limit until Feb. 7, and provide back pay to furloughed workers. But the deal made hardly any changes to President Barack Obama's signature domestic policy, the Affordable Care Act, which had been the driving force behind Republican opposition to agreeing to a funding deal. And the reprieve is only brief, operating under the hope a committee of House and Senate budget negotiators can do what they failed to do all year – agree on a spending package that helps curb long-term deficits.
"This is not a time for pointing fingers or blame; it's a time of reconciliation," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on the floor. He said the country has been pulled back from "the brink of disaster" and heaped praise on his Republican counterpart, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for helping achieve a deal that evaded House Speaker John Boehner.
"This has been a long, challenging few weeks for the Congress and the country," McConnell said. He claimed victory for Republicans because a series of automatic spending cuts loathed by Democrats were kept in place as a part of the package, but he admitted there wasn't much else for Republicans to cheer, given their hope to gut Obamacare.
"Republicans remain determined to repeal this terrible law, but for today, the relief we hope for is to re-open the government, avoid default and protect the historic cuts we achieved," he said. "This is far less than many of us had hoped for, frankly, but it's far better than what some had thought."
And the man driving much of the turmoil of recent days, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, conceded defeat by stating he would not try and impede the timing of a vote on the deal to re-open government and avoid default, a prospect looming so large it had begun to spook the financial markets. But Cruz touted the efforts of House Republicans and vowed to continue his crusade against Obama's agenda.
"That was a remarkable victory, to see the House engage in a profile in courage," he said. "I would point out that had Senate Republicans united and supported House Republicans the outcome of this, I believe, would have been very, very different. I wish that had happened."
Recent polling has shown Republicans getting most of the blame for the government shutdown from Americans, though Democrats don't fare much better. Gallup showed the Republican brand at its lowest point ever, dropping to a 28 percent approval rating down from 38 percent in September.
"This is the lowest favorable rating measured for either party since Gallup began asking this question in 1992," wrote Andrew Dugan, in a memo accompanying the polling results.
But Cruz's defiant reaction to the governing fiasco that kept nearly 800,000 government workers at home and national parks closed for 16 days reflects the political reality of the times – his efforts have already been rewarded with hundreds of thousands of dollars in political contributions and the conservative base will hold him up as a principled politician.
"Shutting down the government is sort of like Syria in the sense that if you're against what Obama wants, that's helping you with your base, it really is," says David Woodard, political science professor at Clemson University. "Now, it's not going to make you popular border-to-border and coast-to-coast, it's not going to help you take back the Senate in 2014, but it is popular down here in terms of re-election. I bet you Ted Cruz, they're going to put a golden crown on his head."
The Senate was expected to vote on the deal Wednesday afternoon or evening, but timing for a House vote remained unclear. Both sides are expected to pass the measure easily with bipartisan support, despite calls from conservative groups such as the Club for Growth to oppose it.