Sixteen days and $24 billion in damage to the economy later, the House voted to end the government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling – sending a bill already approved by the Senate on to President Barack Obama, who said he plans to sign it immediately.
The House voted 285 to 144 to pass the bill.
The vote ends a weeks-long stalemate that began as a fight over the president’s health care law, which was barely touched in the deal passed Wednesday – a far cry from the complete defunding of the law that Republicans wanted at the start.
The White House told federal workers to plan to return to work Thursday morning.
“Once this agreement arrives on my desk I will sign it immediately, we will begin reopening our government immediately, and we can begin to lift this cloud of uncertainty and unease from our businesses and from the American people,” Obama said just before the House vote.
Asked by a reporter as Obama walked away whether Congress would only force another shutdown in a few months when the Senate deal expires, Obama replied simply, “No.”
Details of the plan were hammered out between Democrats and Republicans in the Senate.
The bill will fund the government through January 15, raise the debt ceiling until February 7, and restore back pay to federal workers affected by the shutdown. It touches on Obamacare in only one minor way, by strengthening its income verification procedure for insurance subsidies, a tweak supported by the White House. The deal also sets up a budget conference between the House and Senate to work out a larger spending deal by December 13, a negotiating structure that Democrats have demanded for months.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid thanked Republicans, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, for striking a deal.
“Averting this crisis is historic,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said. “Let’s be honest. This is pain inflicted on our nation for no good reason.”
“We cannot make this mistake again as we go into the next round of negotiations,” Reid said.
A strong majority of 81 senators voted for the deal; 18 opposed. Those voting “no” included Senators Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Marco Rubio, and Rand Paul, four of the most prominent Republicans who backed the defund strategy that provoked the shutdown.
Boehner announced earlier in the day he believed the bill would clear the House.
“The House has fought with everything it has to convince the president of the United States to engage in bipartisan negotiations aimed at addressing our country’s debt and providing fairness for the American people under Obamacare,” Boehner said in a statement. “That fight will continue. But blocking the bipartisan agreement reached today by the members of the Senate will not be a tactic for us.”
Boehner’s announcement came after a brief meeting with his conference in the House basement, where participants said he was greeted with an immediate standing ovation. Despite the warm reception, his decision confirms that the party will move on from the debt ceiling and shutdown fights with no significant concessions whatsoever after they tried to defund, then delay the president’s health care law.
Senate leaders Reid and Mitch McConnell announced the deal to end the shutdown and raise the debt ceiling early Wednesday afternoon in successive speeches. Removing a key obstacle to passage, Senator Ted Cruz said shortly afterwards that he would not use procedural tricks to delay a vote past the October 17 deadline to raise the debt ceiling, a move that could have put the nation at risk of default.
Speaking from the Senate floor, McConnell acknowledged that his party had fallen far short of its initial goals of blocking the Affordable Care Act, but urged members to unite behind him.
“Republicans remain determined to repeal this terrible law,” McConnell said in a speech from the Senate floor. “But for today… the relief we hope for is to reopen the govenrment, avoid default, and protect the historic cuts we achieved under the Budget Control Act.”
Boehner’s own plan imploded Tuesday night when warring factions in his conference made a deal impossible.
In a dramatic defeat, Boehner scrapped a bill that would raise the debt ceiling, end the shutdown, and secure minor changes to the Affordable Care Act. The proposal was a last-ditch plan by Boehner to end the standoff with some shred of dignity before Senate leaders reached a bipartisan deal with even more modest Obamacare changes. But House conservatives, backed by the influential Heritage Foundation, rebelled and refused to support the measure, decrying it as too weak on the president’s health care law.
In the end, they lost anyway.