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BREAKING NEWS: Congress Votes to End the Federal Shutdown and Raise the Debt Ceiling

October 17, 2013
by Mark Hagland
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Members of both the Senate and the House vote to end the federal government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling--for now
Sixteen days after the federal government was shut down amid partisan conflict over the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and just one day before the U.S. Treasury would have exhausted its ability to borrow money, the U.S. Senate and then the U.S. House of Representatives voted to reopen the federal government and to raise the federal debt ceiling.
On Wednesday evening, according to a report in the Washington Post by David Nakamura, Paul Kane, and Lori Montgomery, the Senate voted to approval the agreement that Senate leaders had hammered out earlier in the day, by a vote of 81 to 18, and then passed the bill to the House of Representatives, where it was approved by a vote of 285-144 just two hours later. All 198 Democrats present in the House voted yes, along with 87 Republicans; all 144 no votes were cast by Republicans. President Obama was set to sign the legislation as soon as it could be brought to the White House.
And a report in The New York Times by Jonathan Weisman and Ashley Parker noted that, "Under the agreement to reopen the government, the House and Senate are directed to hold talks and reach accord by Dec. 13 on a long-term blueprint for tax and spending policies over the next decade." President Barack Obama, the Times report noted, "said consistently through the standoff that he was willing to have a wide-ranging budget negotiation once the government was reopened and the debt limit raised."
Still, the agreement worked out only keeps the government open until January 15, and the debt funded until Feb. 7. And, as the Times report noted, "[T]here were no guarantees that Congress would not be at loggerheads again by mid-January and there is deep skeptism in both parties that Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin and Senator Patty Murray of Washington, who will lead the budget negotiations, can bridge the chasm between them. 'This moves us into the next phase of the same debate,' said Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Democrat."
Indeed, some conservative Republicans in the House vowed to fight on to try to force some kind of delays or modifications to the Affordable Care Act, as the very slight modifications in the agreement did nothing to alter the core of the ACA or its implementation.
For now, however, no aspects of ACA implementation are affected; one small element of the legislation does require individuals to prove their eligibility for the insurance subsidies made available under the law, though some experts pointed out that a form of that requirement already exists under the ACA.