US House Speaker, Republican John Boehner, pumps his fist while walking by mediapersons following a House Republican conference meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington DC, USA, yesterday. The House is expected to vote on a deal reached in the US Senate to end the government shutdown and avoid a possible US default.
WASHINGTON: US Senate leaders took a giant step yesterday toward averting a global fiscal shock by unveiling a plan to raise the nation’s debt ceiling and end the government shutdown.
The deal between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican leader Mitch McConnell gives President Barack Obama most of what he had demanded for months: A straightforward debt limit hike and government funding bill.
With the government’s borrowing authority set to run out today, House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said he would allow the deeply divided House to vote on the Senate plan for a short-term increase in the debt limit and a government reopening. It is expected to pass with mostly Democratic votes.
The agreement would extend US borrowing authority until February 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 January 15, ending a partial government shutdown that began with the new fiscal year on October 1.
The Republican-controlled House and the Democrat-controlled Senate were expected to approve the fiscal deal soon, clearing the way for Obama to sign it into law before the debt ceiling is reached late today.
The deal represents a bruising political defeat for Republican conservatives who had demanded changes to President Barack Obama’s healthcare law before they would agree to fund the government.
“Our drive to stop the train wreck that is the president’s healthcare law will continue,” Boehner said in a statement, adding the House had fought Obama “with everything it has” and he would not block the bipartisan Senate agreement.
Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona called the political stalemate, which rattled financial markets and partially shuttered the federal government, “one of the most shameful chapters I have seen in the years I’ve spent in the Senate”.
Lawmakers are racing to pass a deal before the US Treasury hits its $16.7 trillion borrowing limit, which is expected by the end of the day today. The government will have enough cash on hand to meet its obligations for a few more days, but officials have warned an economically devastating default could quickly follow.
Democratic leaders said House Democrats would provide the votes necessary to get the agreement passed even if a majority of House Republicans oppose it. In the House, there now are 232 Republicans and 200 Democrats, with three vacant seats. A bill needs 217 votes to pass. “We’ll get it done,” Democratic Representative Steve Israel of New York, head of the party’s congressional campaign committee, told reporters.