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Political fallout begins as fiscal deal makes way its way through Congress

The bipartisan plan announced by Senate leaders to reopen the government and extend the government’s ability to borrow began making its way through the congressional process Wednesday with votes expected first in the Senate and then in the House late in the day.

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President Barack Obama “applauds” the agreement, White House press secretary Jay Carney said, and suggested the president would sign the legislation if it reaches his desk. The deal represents a victory of sorts for Obama and congressional Democrats who had vowed not to bargain over basic government operations or preserving the credibility of U.S. debt. 

Yet Carney insisted there are no winners from the 16-day government shutdown and debt ceiling standoff. “The economy has suffered because of it, and it was wholly unnecessary,” Carney said. “And let's just remind ourselves that we're not even out of it yet. This is not done. We need action to be taken so that the government can reopen and the threat of default can be removed."

In order to meet an expedited timeline, Democrats will need the cooperation of Republicans in both chambers, something that appears likely, at least for now.

Critically, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, along with several of his conservative allies, said they would not use any of the procedural tactics available to them to slow passage of the agreement. And aides to House Speaker John Boehner suggested that the Ohio Republican would seek Democratic votes to help advance the proposal – a concession in itself, given the speaker’s insistence so far to pass legislation throughout the fiscal crisis.

“Suffice it to say, when we receive the bill,” House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California said on MSNBC, “it will pass.” She suggested the House could receive the bill tonight, though the process might be waylaid until Thursday morning.

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The development was also chastening for congressional Republicans, especially the conservatives who dominate the House GOP. Many of those lawmakers had pushed Boehner to pursue a hard-line bargaining position throughout the shutdown fight.

Despite conservative pressure in the House, a last-ditch proposal spearheaded on Tuesday by Boehner to offer a GOP alternative to the emerging Senate deal was scuttled when conservatives balked at supporting the speaker’s proposal.

Boehner will huddle with his restive conservative caucus at 3 p.m. Those meetings have often served as a soapbox for rank-and-file lawmakers to voice their displeasure with the GOP leadership in past budget showdowns.

While Boehner endured a somewhat tense re-election as speaker at the beginning of this year, there has been little talk – so far – of an uprising against him. Rep. Jim Jordan, a key Ohio conservative, said this morning that there has been “absolutely no talk” among conservatives about unseating the speaker. And conservative Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador said, “I've actually been really proud of Speaker Boehner the last two and a half weeks, I don't think that he should be ashamed of anything that he has done.”

Even so, a question to Jordan and other conservative House Republicans this morning about whether any of them would vote for the Senate deal was met with laughter.

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Speaking to reporters, Cruz didn’t spare his Republican colleagues from a round of backbiting after the deal – which makes no real action toward undoing the Affordable Care Act – was announced.

“Unfortunately, the Senate chose not to follow the House. And in particular, we saw real division among Senate Republicans," Cruz said Wednesday. "That was unfortunate. I would point out that had Senate Republicans united and supported House Republicans, the outcome of this, I believe, would have been very, very different."

There are some silver linings for conservatives in the new Senate deal, which Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., noted early Wednesday afternoon. Specifically, the deal leaves in place reduced spending levels under the federal government “sequester,” which took effect earlier this year.

“For today, the relief we hope for is to reopen the government, avoid default, and protect the historic cuts we achieved under the Budget Control Act,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.