WASHINGTON -- Capping weeks of political brinkmanship that had unnerved global markets, President Barack Obama quickly signed an 11th-hour deal passed by Congress to end a partial government shutdown and pull the world's biggest economy back from the brink of a historic debt default.
A 285-144 vote in the House followed an overwhelming vote in the Senate on the agreement negotiated by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to end a tense political standoff that shut down federal programs for 16 days and led to the furlough of hundreds of thousands of federal workers.
The Democratic-led Senate passed the measure on a 81-18 vote and Obama signed the bill into law about 11:30 CST.
The White House budget office said federal workers should plan to return to work on Thursday morning.
The deal makes no significant changes in President Obama’s healthcare law, which Republicans, particularly in the House, had previously demanded. Democrats provided the additional votes needed to pass the bill in the Republican-led House.
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), speaking earlier to his rank-and-file, said the party lost the battle, but would live to fight another day. But the compromise was welcomed by moderates who had questioned the Republican strategy of using a must-pass spending bill as leverage to force changes to the Affordable Care Act.
“I’m genuinely pleased that cooler heads have finally prevailed,” Rep. Charlie Dent, a moderate Pennsylvania Republican, said shortly before the vote. The bill, he said, “must be supported, but it should not be celebrated.”
“It’s not a win for anyone, particularly the institution of Congress or the presidency for that matter. The bill represents the conclusion of a difficult period from which I hope that many can draw important lessons.”
The bill provides funding to keep the government running through Jan. 15, and allows borrowing to continue through Feb. 7. It also provides that furloughed federal workers would receive back pay.
In brief remarks at the White House after the Senate vote, President Obama thanked leaders for working together.
"We can begin to lift this cloud of uncertainty and unease from our businesses and from the American people," he said.
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 if this would happen again in just a few months.
"No," he said, and continued walking.
Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk, part of a bipartisan group who worked on the measure, said in a statement that "Congress put country over party."
"It is my hope both parties will continue working together on a big deal with spending cuts and reforms to entitlements and the tax code so that we can give our markets and the American people the stability they need and deserve."The agreement would extend U.S. borrowing authority until Feb. 7, although the Treasury Department would have tools to temporarily extend its borrowing capacity beyond that date if Congress failed to act early next year.
The agreement also would fund government agencies until Jan. 15, ending a partial government shutdown that began with the new fiscal year on Oct. 1.