WASHINGTON — For several weeks, they have squabbled, dug in their heels, leveled accusations and blame, and done the adult equivalent of a preschooler sticking their fingers in his or ears and saying “la la la la la.”
But on Wednesday evening, the Senate and then the House passed legislation to raise the debt ceiling and reopen the federal government. In the Senate, 81 Senators voted in favor of passing the legislation — 54 Democrats and 27 Republicans. 18 Senators voted against, all Republicans. The bill then passed the House 285-144, with 87 Republicans joining 198 Democrats in voting for it. All no votes came from Republicans
The bipartisan legislation was pulled together by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and was signed into law by President Barack Obama shortly after midnight on Thursday morning, bringing an end to the 16-day partial government shutdown and averting a debt default by the United States.
“Employees should expect to return to work in the morning,” White House Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell said in a statement following the House vote.
The legislation raises the debt ceiling through February 7, and funds the government through January 15. In the meantime, the deal sets up a conference committee for Republicans and Democrats to come together draft a more long-term budget.
In a concession to Republicans, who initially fought to tie a delay of or changes to Obamacare to the bill funding the government, the new legislation will tighten the process of income verification for people applying for healthcare subsidies.
Federal employees who were furloughed as a result of the shutdown, and those who were working but not receiving a paycheck for the past 16 days, will receive back pay, per a provision in the bill, “as soon as practicable.”
Senate Budget Commitee Chairwoman Patty Murray said her discussions with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan would begin tomorrow morning, when they plan to have breakfast to discuss the budget conference.
“They’re eating at Tortilla Factory!” joked Reid, a reference to a meeting of more conservative House Republicans and Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz earlier this week at Tortilla Coast, a Mexican restaurant near the Capitol.
The bill is a loss for those Republicans, who had hoped to gain concessions on Obamacare in exchange for funding the government or raising the debt ceiling.
“This is a terrible deal,” said Cruz, speaking on the Senate floor shortly before the vote. Cruz was one of the one of the ringleaders of the effort to defund Obamacare for one year in the government funding bill, speaking for over 21 hours in defense of that proposal. “This deal embodies everything about the Washington establishment that frustrates the American people.”
“We fought the good fight,” Speaker of the House John Boehner said Wednesday, “we just didn’t win.”
But Democrats were not celebrating either. New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer called it a “somber” day, saying it should not have taken a 16 day government shutdown to get to that point.
“We started here and we ended here,” he said.