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House leaders won't derail Senate bill crafted by McConnell, Reid that ends shutdown, raises the debt ceiling

| Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

WASHINGTON — The nation stepped back from the brink of default on Wednesday as Senate and House leaders of both parties reached a deal and voted to reopen the federal government and raise the debt ceiling.

The Senate approved the proposal crafted by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on an 81-18 vote. Twenty-seven Republicans joined Democrats in backing the bill. The measure immediately moved to the House of Representatives, which voted for the proposal, 285-144.

“We fought the good fight. We just didn't win,” Boehner said.

The approval reopens the shuttered parts of the government after 16 days and ends for now the stalemate that started when House Republicans refused to approve funding for the government past Oct. 1 unless the Senate and President Obama agreed to defund the new Affordable Care Act, dubbed Obamacare. It would temporarily extend the government debt ceiling. The government was expected to run out of borrowing authority on Thursday evening.

“The eyes of the world have been in Washington all week,” Reid said on the Senate floor. “And while they witnessed a great deal of political discord, today they'll see Congress reaching historic bipartisan agreement to reopen government and avoid default on the nation's bills.”

At the White House, press secretary Jay Carney said Obama would sign the bill, and he called on both chambers to pass it “as soon as possible.”

Carney said the bipartisan agreement would end what he called the “wholly unnecessary” shutdown and “remove the threat of economic brinksmanship” that he said had hurt the United States' economic standing in the world.

The compromise appeared to be a victory for Democrats, as the health care law was left relatively unscathed.

Under the deal, the government would be funded through Jan. 15 and the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling would be increased until Feb. 7. A bipartisan House-Senate conference committee — co-chaired by Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis. — would work on larger budget issues. The committee will have until Dec. 13 to complete its work and report to Congress.

McConnell said Republicans managed to preserve tenets of the 2011 Budget Control Act, which includes the mandatory domestic and defense cuts known as sequestration.

“That's been a top priority for me and for my colleagues on the Republican side of the aisle throughout this debate,” he said. “And it's been worth the effort.”

Still, McConnell acknowledged that Republicans came up short.

“This is far less than many of us had hoped for, frankly,” McConnell said. “But it's far better than what some had sought. Now it's time for Republicans to unite behind other crucial goals.”

Boehner also talked about preserving the Budget Control Act in announcing that he would not stand in the way of the Senate plan.

“Blocking the bipartisan agreement reached today by members of the Senate will not be a tactic for us,” Boehner said. “In addition to the risk of default, doing so would open the door for the Democratic majority in Washington to raise taxes again on the American people and undo the spending caps in the 2011 Budget Control Act without replacing them with better spending cuts.”

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who was at the forefront of the plan to tie government funding to a demand to defund Obamacare, signaled that he would not block a vote on the Reid-McConnell compromise.

“I have no objections of the timing of this vote, and the reason is simple,” Cruz said when asked whether he would filibuster the plan. “There's nothing to be gained from delaying this vote one day or two days. The outcome will be the same.”

That said, Cruz blasted the deal, calling it a victory for the Washington establishment.

“The deal that has been cut provides no relief to the millions of Americans who are hurting because of Obamacare,” he said. “This is unfortunate, but nobody should be surprised that the Washington establishment is pushing back. Nobody should be surprised at the resistance to change.”

Tea Party groups also were angered by the deal.

Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of a group called Tea Party Patriots, called the Reid/McConnell deal “a complete sellout.”

“The House ‘leadership' must stop playing ‘flinch' with themselves and instead play hardball with the White House, the Senate and the House,” Martin said in a statement. “Otherwise, hard-working Americans are going to bear the burden of this unaffordable law. The American people WILL hold those responsible for this mess accountable.”

Many Republicans, however, appeared ready to move on from the shutdown and debt ceiling crisis.

“We've been asking from the beginning what's the ending, how does this end, how do you achieve what you're purporting to achieve on defunding Obamacare, and I never got an answer to that,” said Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H. “If we learned nothing else from this whole exercise, I hope we learned that we shouldn't get behind a strategy that cannot succeed. And by the way, let's not forget that the government has been shut down but the Obamacare exchanges are still open.”

But for some lawmakers who were elected specifically to kill the health care law, the battle continues.

“They're not going to go away and say, “Hey, we're giving up,'” said Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan.

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