The U.S. Congress voted Wednesday night to halt the 16-day government shutdown and raise the U.S. debt limit, ending the nation’s fiscal impasse.
The House of Representatives voted 285-144 to clear a measure that now heads to President Barack Obama for his signature. House Republicans split, with 87 in favor and 144 opposed. All 198 Democrats who were present voted yes. The House vote came less than three hours after the Senate passed the bill, 81-18.
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Obama planned to sign the bill Wednesday night and federal employees should expect to return to work Thursday, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said in a statement.
"Once this agreement arrives on my desk, I will sign it immediately," Obama said tonight at the White House. "We’ll begin reopening our government immediately and we can begin to lift this cloud of uncertainty from our businesses and from the American people."
Congress acted the day before U.S. borrowing authority was scheduled to lapse as lawmakers engaged in their fourth round of fiscal brinkmanship in less than three years.
The agreement will put federal workers back on the job, prevent a potential default on U.S. debt and make no major policy changes sought by Republicans. Lawmakers didn’t resolve their long-term divides on fiscal policy and will have to return to the same issues over the next four months.
The four-week fiscal standoff began with Republicans demanding defunding of Obama’s 2010 health-care law and objecting to raising the debt limit and financing the government without policy conditions.
"We fought the good fight," House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, said today on Cincinnati’s WLW, a radio station in his home state of Ohio. "We just didn’t win."
The agreement negotiated by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will fund the government at Republican-backed spending levels through Jan. 15, 2014, and suspend the debt limit through Feb. 7, setting up another round of confrontations then.