Washington, Oct 17: Hours before a looming midnight deadline, the Senate voted to reopen the government and raise the US debt ceiling, closing in on a deal to avert risk of first debt default in American history.
The eleventh hour deal hammered out earlier by Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his Republican counterpart Mitch McConnell received broad bipartisan support. The vote was 81-18.
Shortly after the Senate vote Wednesday night, President Barack Obama said that if the House, as expected, follows the Senate in passing the deal to end the budget standoff, “I will sign it immediately. We’ll begin reopening our government immediately.”
“There’s a lot of work ahead of us, including our need to earn back the trust of the American people that’s been lost over the last few weeks,” he said. “And we can begin to do that by addressing the real issues that they care about.”
The House is expected to approve the bill and send it to the president’s desk for signature within hours.
The deal funds the government through Jan 15, raises the debt limit until Feb 7 and includes a provision in the deal that strengthens verification measures for people getting subsidies under Obama’s signature healthcare law, nicknamed Obamacare.
It also sets a mid December deadline for completing budget negotiations between the Republican controlled House and the Democrat led Senate for a long-term spending plan.
Federal employees who were furloughed as a result of the shutdown will receive back pay “as soon as practicable,” according to the bill’s text.
In what was seen as a major victory for Obama, Republicans faced with the Oct 17 debt ceiling deadline were forced to accept a deal with only minor concessions from Democrats.
Earlier Republican Speaker John Boehner signalled the end of the stand off with a formal announcement that Republicans will not oppose the bill en masse.
“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.”
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at email@example.com)