First Read Flash: Game over

New York Times: “Congressional Republicans conceded defeat on Wednesday in their bitter budget fight with President Obama over the new health care law as the House and Senate approved last-minute legislation ending a disruptive 16-day government shutdown and extending federal borrowing power to avert a financial default with potentially worldwide economic repercussions. With the Treasury Department warning that it could run out of money to pay national obligations within a day, the Senate voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday evening, 81 to 18, to approve a proposal hammered out by the chamber’s Republican and Democratic leaders after the House on Tuesday was unable to move forward with any resolution. The House followed suit a few hours later, voting 285 to 144 to approve the Senate plan, which would fund the government through Jan. 15 and raise the debt limit through Feb. 7.”

NBC’s Tom Curry has more on what is and isn’t included in the final bill.

Politico: “Not a single House Democrat voted against the plan to reopen the government and extend the debt ceiling, a stark contrast to the 144 Republicans who opposed the bill despite urging from their leadership. A full 62 percent of House Republicans voted against the deal — a clear violation of the so-called “Hastert rule,” which mandates a majority of the Republican Conference support any bill that hits the floor.”

NBC’s Michael O’Brien: “The GOP has little to show for a 16-day government shutdown except dismal headlines and sinking approval ratings. And to top it all off, the party remains as divided as ever….Eleven months removed from an election that saw President Barack Obama win a second term and Democrats perform more strongly than expected in congressional elections, Republicans have made little progress toward rehabilitating the party’s reputation. The GOP’s internal dividing lines remain as stark as ever and the party – at least on Capitol Hill – seems paralyzed when it comes to the business of governing.”

MSNBC’s Benjy Sarlin: “Interviews with lawmakers, pundits, and activists across a wide ideological in the final hours of a shutdown Wednesday paint a pessimistic picture of what Congress has learned from the 16-day ordeal. While some argue that Republicans are dropping too sharply in the polls to take such a hard line on budget negotiations again, most believe that the fundamental dynamics haven’t shifted – meaning more shutdowns and possible defaults could be waiting in the wings. The next standoff could come as soon as January, when the new spending agreement ends or in February, when the new debt ceiling level is reached.”

National Journal’s Ron Fournier: “Faced now with the choice between partisan politics and a risky high ground, the president has an opportunity to leverage this ‘victory’ for a long-term budget deal that raises taxes and tames entitlements. Obama won. Now can he lead? Does he have the guts to anger liberal backers with a budget deal on Social Security and Medicare? Is he willing to engage sincerely with Republicans? Does he want a legacy beyond winning two elections and enacting a health care law that, judging by its horrendous launch, may never live up to its promise? If the answer to those questions is ‘yes,’ Obama has hidden his intentions well.”

Washington Post’s Paul Kane: “House Speaker John A. Boehner lost the shutdown showdown in ignominious fashion, winning not a single concession of any value from Democrats and exposing his majority as powerless to advance conservative causes. The one thing the Ohio Republican did seem to manage to do was hold onto his job. The always embattled speaker let his recalcitrant conservatives effectively run the show for the past month, and even as they lost badly, he won grudging respect from some who sought to take his gavel away earlier this year.”

Dallas Morning News: “It might be time for Ted Cruz to get a dog. Because as the saying goes, if you want a friend in Washington, that’s what you do. And by the time Cruz’s crusade to defund Obamacare finally crashed to a halt Wednesday, the Texas senator had precious few friends left. The government shutdown alienated colleagues in both parties. It generated fresh animosity toward the tea party and a flurry of recriminations toward Cruz. Voter support for the Republican Party plunged. And the health care law survived unscathed.”

Roll Call: “[T]here is residual fear from aides in both parties that it won’t be 10 years before another standoff, that the conservative faction mobilized by Cruz (especially in the House) won’t be moved by recent polls showing a huge hit to the Republican brand, and that, perhaps most dangerously for GOP leaders, Cruz and his acolytes won’t care. Asked time and again whether they were concerned that Cruz would draw a similar line in the sand in the months ahead when it comes time to fund the government and pay its bills again, multiple senators demurred or laughed nervously. They’ve seen this show before.”

Washington Post: “But while the bipartisan deal ends a period of disruption that has slowed the economy — the shutdown removed more than $20 billion in direct government spending and related economic activity — it creates new perils, setting up other economy-shaking deadlines in just a few months. It also does almost nothing for the country’s existing economic challenges, including automatic spending cuts that are worsening the problem of high unemployment and along-term debt challenge posed by mounting costs in health-care and retirement programs.”

Wall Street Journal: “The House conservatives were digesting a difficult reality: the deal to fund the government and extend borrowing through early next year wouldn’t make significant changes to the 2010 health-care law, a demand that kicked off the budget brawl.

After enduring weeks of barbs by Democrats and even some fellow Republicans for picking a fight with President Barack Obama over the health law, some of the assembled conservatives were eager to return fire.”

KENTUCKY: Lexington Herald-Leader: “Statesman, traitor, tap-dancer — Kentucky U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell was tagged with a number of labels Wednesday as his high-profile role in negotiations with Democrats presented a large target for opponents, even as the resulting deal appeared to end the government shutdown and avoid debt default. After reaching what looked like an agreement to end the Washington stalemate with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, McConnell was pelted from both sides of the political spectrum as challengers and critics sought to deny the senator a chance to portray himself as a savior and a leader in the midst of crippling dysfunction.”

MSNBC’s Suzy Khimm: “Tucked into the Senate bill to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling is a little something else: $2.9 billion in funding for a dam project on the Kentucky-Illinois border, which” McConnell “has requested money for in the past. The law funds the Olmsted dam and lock project with $2.918 billion, according to the bill text. Started more than 20 years ago, the project is woefully behind schedule and over budget.”

Politico: “Conservative groups ripped into” McConnell, “accusing him of earmarking $2 billion for a famously troubled lock-and-dam project that would benefit his home state as part of the bill to reopen the government and avert a debt default.”“It’s the Kentucky Kickback,” the Senate Conservatives Fund, which is considering backing McConnell’s primary opponent, wrote in a blog post. “

MISSISSIPPI: State Sen. Chris McDaniel is expected to announce this afternoon that he’ll primary GOP Sen. Thad Cochran, who voted in favor of the budget deal. AP: “McDaniel said Tuesday that he’s leaning toward challenging” Cochran. “McDaniel told The Associated Press that he was still undecided as of Tuesday evening. He said he will go to his Ellisville home Wednesday, sit in his arbor and pray about it. ‘Right now, we’re leaning toward running for U.S. Senate.’”

NEW JERSEY: NBC’s Jessica Taylor: “Newark Mayor Cory Booker will soon be headed to Washington as the next New Jersey senator. The Democratic nominee easily bested Republican Steve Lonegan in Wednesday’s special election to succeed the late Frank Lautenberg… The famous mayor, who has touted his ability to bring people together while growing his own social media presence and popularity, will head to a polarized Washington where he’s certain to be a rising star within the Democratic Party and another outsized presence in D.C.”

Newark Star Ledger: “ While the center-left Booker outlined ideas on the campaign trail such as government-funded college funds for poor kids, renewal of the assault weapons ban and instituting comprehensive climate-change legislation, he’ll likely find progress slow-going in the Senate, which puts more value on seniority and procedure than personal magnetism.

Not to mention that Booker, who will now serve the remaining 15 months of the late U.S.Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s term, will have to start running for his 2014 re-election virtually the day he’s sworn in.”

NORTH CAROLINA: Roll Call: “Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., offered an endorsement on Wednesday to a tea party activist running for the GOP Senate nomination in North Carolina — a top pickup opportunity for Republicans. Physician Greg Brannon, one of several Republicans vying to take on Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, touted the endorsement from the conservative senator and potential presidential contender as a momentum boost for the campaign. The campaign’s announcement referred to Brannon as ‘an anti-establishment candidate … who will oppose the Big Government, big spending status quo in both parties.’”

VIRGINIA: Richmond Times Dispatch: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe reported adjusted gross income of $9.4 million last year, according to a 2012 tax summary released by his campaign Wednesday evening.The McLean businessman and former Democratic National Committee chairman also claimed about $1 million in itemized deductions on the income and paid $2.74 million in taxes, according to the two-page Form 1040 provided by the campaign.”

Washington Post: McAuliffe “s launching a new ad focused on provocative comments about abortion made by Ken Cuccinelli II, the latest effort by the Democratic candidate to paint his Republican foe as an extremist on social issues….McAuliffe’s latest effort seizes on comments made by Cuccinelli in a speech to the Cherish Life Ministries Christian Life Summit in Ashburn in 2012. The ad features a clip of Cuccinelli discussing the potential consequences for the United States of its abortion policies.”

First Read Flash: Game over