US government - open for business
Oct 16, 2013 / 9:12 am
Senate leaders agreed to a bipartisan plan Wednesday to avert a threatened U.S. default and reopen the federal government after a 16-day closure, according to a Republican senator. Stocks soared as the crisis that has gripped Washington for weeks appeared to be nearing its end.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte also said the House of Representatives might vote first on the plan to speed its way through Congress and put it on President Barack Obama's desk for signing before Thursday's default deadline.
"I understand they've come to an agreement but I'm going to let the leader announce that," Ayotte said as she walked into a meeting of Senate Republicans called to review details of the emerging deal struck with Democrats who control the Senate.
U.S. stock indexes jumped by more than 1 per cent by late morning.
The crisis began on Oct. 1 with a partial shutdown of the federal government after House Republicans refused to accept a temporary funding measure unless Obama agreed to defund or delay his health care overhaul law. It escalated when House Republicans also refused to move on needed approval for raising the amount of money the Treasury can borrow to pay U.S. bills, raising the spectre of a catastrophic default. Obama vowed repeatedly not to pay a "ransom" in order to get Congress to pass normally routine legislation.
The hard-right tea party faction of House Republicans, urged on by conservative Texas Republican Ted Cruz in the Senate, had seen both deadlines as weapons that could be used to gut Obama's health care overhaul, designed to provide tens of millions of uninsured Americans with coverage. The Democrats remained united against any Republican threat to Obama's signature program, and Republicans in the House could not muster enough votes to pass their own plan to end the impasse.
Now the Senate plan's passage in the Republican-controlled House could require House Speaker John Boehner put the measure to a vote as is and depend heavily on minority Democrats to support it. The move is risky and seen as imperiling the House leadership, but Boehner was apparently ready to do it and end the crisis that has badly damaged Republican approval among voters.
Boehner and the House Republican leadership met in a different part of the Capitol to plan their next move. A spokesman, Michael Steel, said afterward that no decision had been made "about how or when a potential Senate agreement could be voted on in the House."
In the Senate, Democrat Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had resumed talks Tuesday night and were expected to soon announce details of the plan that was seen as able to pass both houses of Congress.
But a key Republican, Sen. Lindsey Graham, said the Republicans had hurt their cause through the long and dangerous standoff.
"This package is just a joke compared to what we could have gotten if we had a more reasonable approach," he told NBC.
Driving the urgency was not only the calendar but also fears that financial markets would plunge without a deal. Looking forward, lawmakers were also concerned voters would punish them in next year's congressional elections. Polls show the public more inclined to blame Republicans.
Since the standoff began, House Republicans have since dropped their demands to gut the health care law known as Obamacare. But Congress still struggled futilely for more than two weeks to pass two measures that are normally routine: an emergency funding bill to keep the government running and legislation to raise the $16.7-trillion borrowing limit.
Read more World News
- Mandela's state funeral set for Dec. 15
- Hundreds to celebrate pot anniversary
- Woman live-tweets husband's death
- Shanghai pollution at dangerous levels
- Whale rescuers feeling more optimistic
- Driving 50-ton battle tank - not easy
- Russian diplomats accused of fraud
- White House changes story
- Three years in prison for ivory smuggler
- Nelson Mandela, prisoner and president
- Nelson Mandela dies at 95
- Powerful storm slams Europe
(Click for RSS instructions.)