President Obama signed into law a bipartisan deal approved by Congress to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling, the White House said early Thursday morning.
Hundreds of thousands of federal workers will return to their jobs on Thursday, and national parks and memorials shuttered for 16 days will reopen.
Lawmakers voted just hours before the Oct. 17 deadline set by the Treasury Department for raising the borrowing limit.
Congress moved Wednesday to end the government shutdown and prevent a possible default, as the House and Senate both approved a Senate-negotiated agreement in separate, bipartisan votes.
The House voted 285-144 in favor of the bill, which would fund the government until Jan. 15 and raise the debt ceiling until Feb. 7. That followed an 81-18 Senate vote on the same measure.
After weeks of bitter debate and stalemate between the two parties, it took less than three hours for the House and Senate to approve the package.
The Treasury had warned it would have only $30 billion in its accounts after Thursday, and Fitch on Tuesday put the U.S. credit rating on a negative watch.
Aside from easing the concerns on Wall Street, passage will give the two parties a framework for working together, at least for a few months. Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said she and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) would hold a breakfast meeting on Thursday, the start of a budget conference that both chambers agreed to tonight.
The deal also gives the Treasury Department the ability to borrow beyond the debt ceiling.
“Because of today’s efforts, we will continue to honor all of our commitments — a core American value — and preserve the full faith and credit of the United States,” Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said in a statement Wednesday night.
And for the first time in two and a half weeks, the federal government is expected to reopen on Thursday.
The votes end a standoff that began as early as September, when House Republicans insisted on moving a continuing spending resolution that chipped away at ObamaCare. That led to the government shutdown, which began on the same day the new law’s exchanges began enrollment.
In the end, the only change to ObamaCare in the bill was a new process to verify the income claims of people applying for federal health insurance subsidies. Democrats viewed the concession as a fig leaf.
Some Republicans this week have acknowledged that decision to go to war over ObamaCare was a political disaster for their party. Polls show the GOP bore the brunt of the blame from voters, with Gallup registering a 28 percent approval rating for the GOP, the lowest rating it had ever recorded for a political party.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said he hopes the Republicans pushing to derail ObamaCare “learned a lesson that shutdowns and defaults shouldn’t be a part of the way we do business.”
“They should be off limits,” Alexander said. “We have plenty of other legislative tactics we can use.”
But in a speech minutes before the Senate vote, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) remained defiant, calling the bill approved by the Senate a “terrible deal.” Cruz was seen by many as a cheerleader for House efforts to keep the pressure up on the health law.
Cruz was one of 18 Senate Republicans who voted against the final deal. Others included Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.) and Marco Rubio (Fla.), two possible 2016 presidential contenders.
In the House, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), another possible 2016 candidate for the White House, split with his leadership and voted no.
House Republicans put on their best faces for the late Wednesday vote, and cast it as a setback in a larger battle to rein in government that they would not abandon. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) acknowledged to a Cincinnati radio host that “We just didn’t win.”
Later, in a private meeting of the House GOP conference, Boehner told his colleagues, “We fought the good fight.”
“We’ll live to fight another day,” he pledged, according to people in the room.
House Republicans seemed more unified after the meeting then over the last several days. Republican lawmakers gave Boehner a standing ovation in a show of appreciation of the tough job he had uniting the disparate factions of his caucus.
Conservatives said Boehner does not have to worry about fending off a coup, as many pundits speculated he would if he passed legislation to open the government by relying on Democratic votes.
During debate on the bill, Republicans focused on the tasks ahead, particularly the upcoming budget conference. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said he expects the two sides will be able to find a deal on 2014 spending levels, and is hoping for entitlement and tax reform.
“I’m optimistic that once this resolution has passed, the House and the Senate will come together in a budget conference to work out our broad fiscal and budgetary challenges,” he said in comments on the floor.
One immediate test for negotiators is finding a way to reconcile Democratic demands for new tax revenue and GOP opposition to any new taxes. For several months, House Republicans have refused to meet with Democrats on the budget because of these Democratic demands.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) offered a glimpse into this upcoming fight late Wednesday, saying on the House floor that Democrats will fight to increase spending above the 2013 sequester levels.
“As we know, this number is too low,” she said. “As even the chairman of the committee has said, it’s an unrealistic and ill-conceived number, and must be brought to an end.”
The final deal was negotiated by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), who began an intense round of negotiations with Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) at the end of last week after House Republicans proposed legislation to raise the debt ceiling while leaving the government shuttered.
Senate Republicans failed to win a delay of the law’s medical device tax, which many wanted, but claimed a sliver of victory by keeping current spending levels locked in place for three more months.
The bill will grant back pay to an estimated 800,000 federal workers who were furloughed by the shutdown. The leaders also agreed to set up a Senate-House budget conference to negotiate broader fiscal reforms and report its work to Congress by Dec. 13.
It also allows for hundreds of millions of dollars more to fix flood-damaged roads in Colorado, and sets out reporting requirements for the administration on the issue of income verification under ObamaCare.
Some Senate Republicans, worried about the plunge of their party’s approval rating in recent polls, argued Wednesday the standoff over government funding was not worth the battle.
“I never supported this strategy because I didn’t think it was smart for the country of achievable,” Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) said.
She called the result “absurd” and noted ObamaCare’s healthcare exchanges opened despite the shutdown.
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who with Cruz, spearheaded the aggressive tactic, disagreed.
“The media keeps asking, ‘Was it worth it?’ My answer is that it’s always worth it to do the right thing,” he said. “Fighting against an abusive government in defense of protecting the individual rights of the American people is always the right thing.”
Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) took one last shot at Democrats, by reminding his colleagues that Obama argued against raising the debt ceiling when he was a senator in 2006, and George W. Bush was president.
“What was irresponsible and unpatriotic is all of the sudden responsible conduct? I think not,” he said on the House floor.