Congress Votes On Bill To End Shutdown

By: ABC News Email
By: ABC News Email
The compromise was completed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell after a House effort to offer a counter-proposal nearly derailed Senate negotiations.

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Wednsday, October 16, 2013

After a 16-day government shutdown, the Senate and House have approved a bill that would re-open the government and extend the debt limit tonight.

President Obama has pledged to sign the bill immediately once it reaches his desk.

"There a lot of work ahead of us, including the need to earn back the trust of the American people that has been lost of the last few weeks," Obama said in the White House briefing room just minutes after the Senate voted to approve the compromise legislation.

He added that he was hopeful Congress could complete work on immigration reform legislation, a farm bill and a larger budget deal before the end of the year.

"There's no reason why we can't work on these issues at hand, why we can't disagree between the parties while still being agreeable and make sure we're not inflicting harm on the American people," Obama said.

The president did not take questions, but slipped a brief answer to one shouted at him by a reporter about whether the country would face another standoff over funding the government and raising the debt limit in a few months.

"No," Obama said as he walked back into the West Wing.

The Senate tonight approved a compromise proposal that would fund the government until Jan. 15 and extend the debt limit until Feb. 7.

Eighty-one senators voted in favor of the measure and 18, all Republican Senators, voted against it.

The House followed suit shortly afterward, voting 285 to 144 to approve the bill.

It now heads to the White House for Obama's signature.

The compromise was completed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., after a House effort to offer a counter-proposal nearly derailed Senate negotiations.

The final agreement makes only minor changes to President Obama's health care law by requiring income verification for people receiving health care subsidies from the government. It also authorizes a bipartisan committee of negotiators to hammer out a long-term budget deal by Dec. 13, before government funding runs out again in January.

He added that he was hopeful Congress could complete work on immigration reform legislation, a farm bill and a larger budget deal before the end of the year.

"There's no reason why we can't work on these issues at hand, why we can't disagree between the parties while still being agreeable and make sure we're not inflicting harm on the American people," Obama said.

The president did not take questions, but slipped a brief answer to one shouted at him by a reporter about whether the country would face another standoff over funding the government and raising the debt limit in a few months.

"No," Obama said as he walked back into the West Wing.

The Senate tonight approved a compromise proposal that would fund the government until Jan. 15 and extend the debt limit until Feb. 7.

Eighty-one senators voted in favor of the measure and 18, all Republican Senators, voted against it.

The House followed suit shortly afterward, voting 285 to 144 to approve the bill.

It now heads to the White House for Obama's signature.

The compromise was completed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., after a House effort to offer a counter-proposal nearly derailed Senate negotiations.

The final agreement makes only minor changes to President Obama's health care law by requiring income verification for people receiving health care subsidies from the government. It also authorizes a bipartisan committee of negotiators to hammer out a long-term budget deal by Dec. 13, before government funding runs out
again in January.

After weeks of legislative ping-pong and last-minute, closed-door negotiations, Reid shared a sentiment many across the country are feeling.

"I'm tired," Reid said at a news conference Wednesday after the Senate vote.

Reid and Democratic leaders said they were pleased a deal was reached but warned that it should not be cause for excessive celebration because thousands of federal employees and the American economy took a hit during the shutdown.

"It will be some time before we realize the effects of what we've just done, but the shutdown has hurt our economy to a significant degree," Reid said. "But we were able to work it out."

Republicans in the House, though they resisted it, rallied around House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, today as he announced his willingness to move forward with the Senate bill.

One member leaving a House Republican Conference meeting this afternoon said Boehner received a standing ovation from the group. Another told ABC News that when the leadership asked whether any members objected to their plan to move forward with a vote on the Senate bill, none objected.

Boehner left without making comment, but shook his fist before cameras in a display of success.

In an interview this afternoon with ABC News, tea party leader Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., who has often clashed with the GOP leadership, said she was "very proud" of Boehner and she said he did "a wonderful job" holding the conference together.

"He was committed. We fought for the American people that was the issue," she said.

Boehner issued a statement pledging to continue working to dismantle Obama's health care law, but in an interview with an Ohio radio station, he was more blunt about the state of play.

"We did everything we could to get them to the table to negotiate, they just kept saying no. No, no, no," Boehner told ABC News Radio affiliate WLW-AM in Cincinnati. "So we fought the good fight. There's no reason for our members to vote 'no' today."

A major obstacle that could have complicated plans to move the Senate proposal today appeared to be alleviated after conservative Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said he would not block a vote.

"There's nothing to be gained from delaying this vote one day or two days," Cruz told reporters today as Senate leaders announced the agreement on the floor. "I never had any intention of delaying the timing of this vote."

Of the compromise, Cruz lamented that it does not provide "relief" to Americans from the Obama health care law.

"The United States Senate and the Washington establishment are doing nothing to provide relief to the American people," he said.

Neither the Senate plan nor a short-lived House GOP proposal defunded or postponed Obama's health care law, which was the center of tea party Republican demands for re-opening the government.

And even more modest concessions put forward by Boehner -- for example, to repeal the unpopular tax on medical devices and repeal government subsidies for congressional and administration staffers' health care -- could not get enough Republican support to pass.

Either way, however, Republicans now face the reality that they will not get any major concessions from Democrats in exchange for raising the debt limit and re-opening the government.

It ends a saga that has ravished the party in public opinion polls and has raised doubt in financial markets that the two political parties are capable of resolving their differences.

So was the strategy worth it?

Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., told ABC News that, despite the "pain and suffering" Americans felt during the shutdown, Obamacare was a bigger threat.

"I think that the strategy was a good strategy," he said. "I felt from the very beginning that the pain and suffering of a lifetime of Obamacare with the government taking over our health care system -- which eventually will lead to a single-payer system -- is not good, and it's permanent, and we'll continue to fight the good fight to try to get rid of the most egregious aspects of that bill."

With this compromise, there are now three more deadlines facing Congress -- in December, January and February -- when conservatives could once again attempt to force major changes to Obamacare.

At the same time, Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., who was among those who pushed to roll back Obamacare, acknowledged that there are not enough votes in the Senate to approve legislation that would defund or delay the law.

"Obviously, we can't defund or delay Obamacare. The votes aren't there in the Senate," Lamborn said. "That's been crystal clear to us, but we'll try to do other things wherever we can."


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