President Barack Obama signed a measure late Wednesday night that reopens the federal government after 16 days of a partial shutdown and provides a brief reprieve on the United States economy, preventing a credit default expected to occur Thursday.
After weeks of bickering and wrangling, lawmakers voted on a compromise package negotiated by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell aimed at simply getting things moving again in Washington, and setting up budget negotiations between House and Senate lawmakers whose spending proposals are billions of dollars apart.
The deal, which passed 81 to 18 in the Senate, would keep the government funded through Jan. 15 and raise the debt ceiling until Feb. 7. In the meantime, a group of lawmakers led by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the Senate Budget Committee chair, and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., the House Budget Committee chair, will have until mid-December to hammer out a long-term spending plan. The two are scheduled to begin talks Thursday morning over breakfast, according to news reports.
Top 2016 presidential prospects Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., all voted in the minority against the deal. Cruz was instrumental in throwing a wrench in the works earlier in the shutdown saga by spearheading the effort to use the negotiations to defund and derail Obama’s health care law, the Affordable Care Act.
“Delaying this vote would not accomplish anything,” Cruz said during a scrum with reporters before the vote. “The focus is and should be on the substance of providing real relief for the American people. This deal doesn’t do that and that’s why I intend to vote no, but there is nothing to be benefited by delaying this vote a couple of days, versus having it today.”
Over in the House, where Speaker John Boehner repeatedly failed to craft a similar deal that could win passage from his caucus, the vote on the Reid-McConnell package was 285 to 144, with all 198 Democrats supporting it. Only 87 Republicans joined them, while 144 voted against it. Ryan, the former vice presidential candidate, also joined his high-profile Senate colleagues in opposition.
After the Senate vote, but before the House, Obama walked into the press briefing room to deliver a short statement chastising Congress for taking negotiations to the wire and called on both parties to do better at working together for the sake of the country.
“I've got some thoughts about how we can move forward in the remainder of the year and stay focused on the job at hand, because there is a lot of work ahead of us, including our need to earn back the trust of the American people that has been lost over the last few weeks,” he said. “And we can begin to do that by addressing the real issues that they care about.”
Obama said he’d like to see Congress move ahead on comprehensive immigration reform and the farm bill, two pieces of legislation passed by the Democratically-controlled Senate with bipartisan support but stalled in the Republican-controlled House.
“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,” he said. “That’s what I believe the American people are looking for - not a focus on politics, not a focus on elections, but a focus on the concrete steps that can improve their lives.”
Federal workers, who will receive back pay as part of the deal, were told by Sylvia Burwell, director of the Office of Management and Budget that they were expected at work Thursday morning.