Washington, Oct 17: Hours before a looming midnight deadline, Democratic and Republican Senate leaders crafted a last minute deal to end the partial government shutdown, now in its 16th day, and avoid a possible US default.
Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid hailed the agreement he worked out with his Republican counterpart Mitch McConnell Wednesday as “historic”, saying that “in the end, political adversaries put aside their differences”.
President Barack Obama, praised Senate leaders for reaching a compromise, and urged Congress to act quickly, White House spokesman Jay Carney said. “As soon as possible is essentially the recommendation we have from here,” he said.
Republican and Democratic members of the House are meeting separately in the afternoon to hear details of the proposal as well as weigh the next steps.
Reid said the Senate deal under discussion would reopen the government, funding it until Jan 15. It also would raise the debt limit until Feb 7 to avert a possible default on US debt obligations for the first time.
Also, the White House supports a provision in the deal that strengthens verification measures for people getting subsidies under Obama’s signature health care law, nicknamed Obamacare, Carney said.
Carney called the change “a modest adjustment,” and said it didn’t amount to “ransom” for raising the federal debt ceiling because both sides agreed to it and the White House supported it.
In addition, the Senate agreement would set up budget negotiations between the House and Senate for a long-term spending plan.
With a key Republican conservative leader Senator Ted Cruz saying he wouldn’t try to block the deal, it is now expected to proceed smoothly through both houses of Congress before it reaches Obama’s desk.
“The timing of the vote will make no difference in the outcome so I don’t intend to delay the timing of the vote,” Cruz, who has been spearheading conservative strategy in the government shutdown fight, said after a meeting of the Senate Republicans.
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)