Federal employees are returning to work today as the U.S. avoids defaulting on its loans at least for now. President Obama signed the bill just after midnight that was passed by the House and Senate last night to end the first government shutdown in 17 years and lift the debt ceiling. We will hear more from the President later this morning. YNN's Washington bureau reporter Geoff Bennett has the story.
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Another down to the wire deal in the nation's Capitol, bringing to an end a political stalemate that drove the world's biggest economy to the brink of default.
President Barack Obama said, "We’ll begin reopening the government immediately and we can begin to lift this cloud of unease and uncertainty from our businesses and from the American people."
The bipartisan bill passed overwhelmingly in the Senate and easily cleared the House. Senate leaders finalized the deal after House Republicans failed to produce a viable plan of their own. Both chambers kicked into motion after Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who campaigned to defund the president’s health care law, said he wouldn't delay a vote in the Senate.
"There’s nothing to be gained by delaying this vote one day or two days. The outcome will be the same,” Cruz said.
The agreement funds the government until January 15th, raises the debt limit until February 7th, establishes a bipartisan committee to work through fiscal issues and ensures that people who receive subsidies to buy insurance under the Affordable Care Act are actually eligible. It also includes back pay for furloughed federal government workers.
The White House on Wednesday welcomed the agreement, but stopped short of declaring victory over Republicans.
"There are no winners here. We've said that from the beginning and we're going to say it right up to the end, because it's true. The American people have paid a price for this," said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.
But politically speaking, the deal is a major win for Democrats and a stinging defeat for Republicans who tried to use the threat of a potential default to force major changes in the President’s health care law.
Before the vote on Wednesday, some House Republicans were already talking about lessons learned.
"You know, we’re not going to get 100 percent of what we want and we understand that. I think those are some of the things that are being learned now," said North Carolina Representative Renee Ellmers.
And some House Democrats, whose votes were crucial to deal's success, were happy to relish the role they played.
"We’ve gotten very good about making sure that Republicans don’t pull the economy off a cliff. We’ve done it before. We will do it again," New York Representative Steve Israel said.
And they may have to do it again when the current measure expires in January.