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Obama signs budget deal, ending government shutdown

Oct. 17, 2013 - 07:16PM   |  
A woman jogs at the Lincoln Memorial after it reopened Thursday.
A woman jogs at the Lincoln Memorial after it reopened Thursday. (Jewel Samad / AFP)
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WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama signed into law a bipartisan deal approved by Congress Wednesday to reopen the federal government and avert an unprecedented debt default, ending a bitter and partisan 16-day impasse.

The Senate voted 81-18; The House voted 285-144. Only Republicans opposed the deal in each chamber.

Both chambers then adjourned for the rest of the week.The bill includes back pay for federal employees furloughed during the shudown; both they and federal employees who had kept working but whose salaries had been withheld during the shutdown will be paid retroactively in their next paychecks, an Office of Management and Budget spokesman said in an email.

The bill would also allow the Obama administration to proceed with a 1 percent across-the-board pay raise for federal workers in January, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., said in a news release.

House GOP leaders accepted the Senate deal to end the partial shutdown and avert a Thursday deadline to raise the nation’s $16.7 trillion debt ceiling, that risked the nation’s economic standing.

“The compromise we reached will provide our economy with the stability it desperately needs,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who negotiated 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.

After the Senate vote, President Obama made a brief statement praising leaders of both parties for accepting the deal. “My hope and expectation is everybody has learned that there is no reason why we can’t work on the issues at hand, why we can’t disagree between the parties while still being agreeable, and make sure that we’re not inflicting harm on the American people when we do have disagreements,” Obama said,

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who led the unsuccessful GOP effort to dismantle the president’s healthcare law in the fight, announced early Wednesday that he would not block the Senate deal and he urged GOP lawmakers to support it.

“The House has fought with everything it has” in the latest budget fight, he said, but he would not allow the risk of default to occur. Boehner said Republicans were committed to keeping up their fight to rein in the Affordable Care Act but would use “smart, targeted strikes” and aggressive oversight in the future. “Our drive to stop the train wreck that is the president’s health care law will continue.” Republicans remain opposed to new taxes, he added.

Republicans initially had demanded delaying or defunding President Obama’s signature health care law before they would agree to raise the debt ceiling or fund the government, but those demands faded over several weeks. The final deal does not include any significant revisions of the Affordable Care Act.

The narrow deal includes a stopgap measure that would fund the government through Jan. 15, and suspend the debt ceiling until Feb. 7. Congress also established a framework for formal bipartisan budget negotiations to begin. Negotiators would be tasked with reporting out by Dec. 13 recommendations for longer-term spending levels and deficit reduction.

The package will also provide back pay to the 800,000 federal workers affected by the shutdown, and keep in place a pay freeze for members of Congress through the upcoming budget year.

Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., and House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., were scheduled to meet for breakfast Thursday morning to begin the talks.

Senate leaders reasserted control of negotiations after Boehner failed Tuesday to corral GOP lawmakers behind a competing budget proposal that would have eliminated federal subsidies for lawmakers, administration officials, and their staffs to buy insurance under the new system.

House Republican leaders relied on House Democrats to provide the votes to pass the Senate package.

The conservative activist group FreedomWorks railed against the deal as a “complete surrender” to Democrats. 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 White House spokesman Jay 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.”

Initially, House Republican leaders sought a broad package of spending cuts and financial changes to raise the $16.7 trillion debt limit. But they 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 lack of a unified 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.”

Contributing: David Jackson

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