Senate leaders said Wednesday that they had reached a bipartisan agreement to end a 16-day government shutdown and avert default on the national debt roiled Washington, furloughed hundreds of thousands of federal workers and closed crucial government services.
Congress will now attempt to quickly advance the legislation through both the House and Senate throughout the day in hopes of avoiding default on the national debt and reopening the government, although the exact order of that process remains unclear.
Crucially, stalwart conservatives in the Senate – particularly Texas Sen. Ted Cruz – said they would not use procedural tactics to slow a vote on the legislation, brightening the prospects for a quick solution.
The bipartisan deal would reopen the government through mid-January and extend the government’s ability to borrow through early February – a victory for President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats who had vowed not to bargain over basic government operations or preserving the credibility of U.S. debt.
The deal also locks in reduced spending levels as established under the automatic spending cuts known as the “sequester” – a silver lining for Republicans who have otherwise been pummeled by the recent fiscal showdown.
"The compromise we reached will provide our economy with the stability it desperately needs," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said shortly after noon on the Senate floor. “In the end, political adversaries set aside their their differences and disagreements to prevent ... disaster.”
Reid’s counterpart, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., offered his blessing: “This is far less than many of us had hoped for, frankly, but is far better than what some had sought,”
Congress will now attempt to quickly advance the legislation through both the House and Senate throughout the day in hopes of avoiding default on the national debt. Crucially, stalwart conservatives in the Senate – particularly Texas Sen. Ted Cruz – said they would not use procedural tactics to slow a vote on the agreement.
The precise path forward for the agreement was unclear. Unencumbered by the objections of Cruz and his allies, the Senate could conceivably move quickly to send its proposal to the House. But House aides also suggested that the GOP could bring up the proposal for a vote in the lower chamber first. In either case, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, will have to rely on Democratic votes in order to ensure passage of the deal.
Doing so would represent a concession for Boehner in any regard. Throughout the past month’s fiscal showdown, he has insisted on advancing legislation with only Republican votes – often forcing him to draft deeply conservative legislation that had no chance of passage in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
If the House were to approve the Senate compromise today, the upper chamber would presumably be able to then quickly pass it, and send the final deal to the White House for President Barack Obama’s signature.
The sudden flurry of action in Congress follows weeks of gridlock in the nation’s capital that prompted a prolonged government shutdown for the first time since the mid-1990s.
The theatrics culminated on Tuesday, when House Republicans failed to rally around an alternative to the emerging Senate plan floated by Boehner and his lieutenants as conservatives balked at the proposal. The ordeal laid bare many of the dividing lines that have plagued the House GOP for the past two and a half years, and ceded leverage in the spending fight to the Senate and Democrats who control that chamber.