WASHINGTON – President Obama praised lawmakers in both parties on Wednesday night for passing legislation to reopen the government and lift the nation’s debt limit, saying he hoped leaders could "put the last three weeks behind us" and work to "earn back the trust of the American people."
In a short statement delivered to reporters at the White House, Obama said he would sign the deal quickly so "we can begin to lift the cloud of uncertainty" and focus on other issues – including immigration and the farm bill.
The president spoke minutes after the Senate passed a bill that would reopen federal agencies after 16 days of shutdown and lift the cap on borrowing that had raised the prospect of a default on the nation’s debt. The deal, which won overwhelming bipartisan support, was expected to pass in the House later Wednesday night, over the objections of conservative Republicans who had hoped to use the two fiscal deadlines to delay or stop the president's signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act.
The final package makes only minor changes to the healthcare law, delivering a defeat to conservatives. But the bill also calls for a budget conference committee to negotiate a broader deal by Dec. 13. It funds the government through Jan. 15 and lifts the debt limit until Feb. 7.
If no deals are crafted, Washington could find itself on the brink of another shutdown standoff.
Obama said he hoped lawmakers would take the opportunity to craft a "sensible budget."
"Hopefully next time it won’t be in the 11th hour," he said. "We’ve got to get out of the habit of governing by crisis."
As he was walking out of the briefing room, a reporter asked whether this would happen again in a few months.
"No," the president said, and continued walking.