By Susan Davis
WASHINGTON - The Senate easily passed a bipartisan deal to reopen the federal government and avert an unprecedented debt default. The measure now goes to the House, where it is expected to pass Wednesday night.
The final Senate vote was 81-18.
House leaders have said they will accept the Senate deal to end the 16-day partial shutdown and meet a Thursday deadline to raise the nation's $16.7 debt ceiling.
"The compromise we reached will provide our economy with the stability it desperately needs," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who negotiated the agreement with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
"This has been a long, challenging few weeks for Congress and for the country. It is my hope that today we can put some of those most urgent issues behind us," McConnell said.
After the Senate vote, President Obama made a brief statement praising leaders of both parties for accepting the deal and said he would sign the bill immediately after it reaches his desk. "My hope and expectation is everybody has learned that there is no reason why we can't work on the issues at hand, why we can't disagree between the parties while still being agreeable, and make sure that we're not inflicting harm on the American people when we do have disagreements," Obama said,
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, announced early Wednesday that he would not block the Senate deal and he urged GOP lawmakers to support it.
"The House has fought with everything it has" in the latest budget fight, he said, but he would not allow the risk of default to occur Thursday. Boehner said Republicans were committed to keeping up their fight to rein in the Affordable Care Act but would use "smart, targeted strikes" and aggressive oversight in the future. "Our drive to stop the train wreck that is the president's health care law will continue." Republicans remain opposed to new taxes, he added.
Republicans initially had demanded delaying or defunding President Obama's signature health care law before they would agree to raise the debt ceiling or fund the government, but those demands faded over several weeks. The final deal does not include any significant revisions of the Affordable Care Act.
The narrow deal includes a stopgap measure that would fund the government through Jan. 15, suspend the debt ceiling until Feb. 7 and establish a framework for formal budget negotiations to begin. Negotiators would be tasked with reporting out by Dec. 13 recommendations for longer-term spending levels and deficit reduction.
Senate leaders reasserted control of negotiations after Boehner failed Tuesday to corral GOP lawmakers behind a competing budget proposal. House Republican leaders will probably have to rely on House Democrats to provide the votes to pass the Senate package.
The conservative activist group FreedomWorks railed against the Senate deal as a "complete surrender" to Democrats. The group joined a trio that includes Club for Growth and Heritage Action in advising lawmakers to oppose the plan because they will use it to rank Republicans in their annual scorecards.
The shutdown and debt ceiling fight have been politically bruising for the GOP, but White House spokesman Jay Carney declined to say the end result was a victory for Democrats.
"There are no winners here," he said. "We said that from the beginning, and we're going to say it right up to the end because it's true. The American people have paid a price for this. And nobody who's sent here to Washington by the American people can call themselves a winner if the American people have paid a price for what's happened. And the economy has suffered because of it, and it was wholly unnecessary."
Initially, House Republican leaders sought a broad package of spending cuts and financial changes to raise the $16.7 trillion debt limit. But they never put forward the plan, and the lack of direction exposed cracks between House Republicans and their Senate counterparts, who voiced increasing frustrations about the strategy.
A series of public opinion polls in the past two weeks showed the Republican Party tanking in popularity, which Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., recently called "devastating."
"I think it's obvious that we are now seeing the end of this agonizing odyssey that this body has been put through, but far more importantly, the American people have been put through," McCain said Wednesday, "It's one of the more shameful chapters that I have seen in the years that I have spent here in the Senate."
Contributing: David Jackson