The Slatest

Shutdown Live-Blog: Congress Votes to End Shutdown, Raise Debt Ceiling

The U.S. Capitol is shown at sunset October 15, 2013 in Washington, DC.

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

Welcome to Day 16 of the government shutdown. Washington awoke Wednesday morning with only hours to go before the Treasury Department says the government will run out of money to pay its bills. But thanks to a bipartisan deal in the Senate—coupled with John Boehner’s newfound willingness to bring such a proposal up for a vote in the House—Congress appears on pace to end the shutdown and lift the debt ceiling either late tonight or early tomorrow morning.

Follow @JoshVoorhees and the rest of the @slatest team on Twitter, and read the rest of Slate’s coverage of the government shutdown here. A small sampling of our more recent posts and pieces:

10:30 p.m.: And That’s a Wrap, via the New York Times:

Congressional Republicans conceded defeat on Wednesday in their bitter budget fight with President Obama over the new health care law as the House and Senate approved last-minute legislation ending a disruptive 16-day government shutdown and extending federal borrowing power to avert a financial default with potentially worldwide economic repercussions.

With the Treasury Department warning that it could run out of money to pay national obligations within a day, the Senate voted overwhelmingly Wednesday evening, 81 to 18, to approve a proposal hammered out by the chamber’s Republican and Democratic leaders after the House on Tuesday was unable to move forward with any resolution. The House followed suit a few hours later, voting 285 to 144 to approve the Senate plan, which would fund the government through Jan. 15 and raise the debt limit through Feb. 7.

Most House Republicans opposed the bill, but 87 voted to support it. The breakdown showed that Republican leaders were willing to violate their informal rule against advancing bills that do not have majority Republican support in order to end the shutdown. All 198 Democrats voting supported the measure.

5:10 p.m.: GOP Congressman: “We lost. That’s It.” via Washington Post:

Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), one of the more conservative voices in the House GOP caucus, told CNN on Wednesday afternoon that he will vote against the Senate plan to end the government shutdown and extend the debt ceiling, but that he expects it to get majority support in the House GOP. …

“We really do believe that this was worth having the fight,” Mulvaney said. “We lost. That’s it. You’re absolutely right. The folks who said we were going to lose turned out to be correct. I can’t argue that.”

4:25 p.m.: Now It’s a Waiting Game:

Both chambers of Congress are still on track to pass the Reid-McConnell deal tonight (or, possibly early tomorrow). The Senate is currently debating the bill, and is expected to hold a final vote on it in the next few hours. The House will then take it up, most likely with Democrats and a small swath of Republicans voting to send it to President Obama’s desk. And, just like that, this round will be over.

3:30 p.m.: Boehner Admits Defeat, via a prepared statement:

“The House has fought with everything it has to convince the president of the United States to engage in bipartisan negotiations aimed at addressing our country’s debt and providing fairness for the American people under ObamaCare. That fight will continue. But blocking the bipartisan agreement reached today by the members of the Senate will not be a tactic for us.  In addition to the risk of default, doing so would open the door for the Democratic majority in Washington to raise taxes again on the American people and undo the spending caps in the 2011 Budget Control Act without replacing them with better spending cuts. With our nation’s economy still struggling under years of the president’s policies, raising taxes is not a viable option. Our drive to stop the train wreck that is the president’s health care law will continue.  We will rely on aggressive oversight that highlights the law’s massive flaws and smart, targeted strikes that split the legislative coalition the president has relied upon to force his health care law on the American people.”

Or, as he put it in a radio interview earlier today: “We fought the good fight, we just didn’t win.”

3:02 p.m.:  The End Is In Sight, via the Washington Post:

Democratic aides said Wednesday afternoon that the Senate will vote on the deal to end the shutdown and raise the debt ceiling before the House, taking up the plan in the late afternoon or early evening. If the Senate approves the deal by early evening, the bill would go immediately to the House for a vote. No amendments are anticipated, so the House could possibly approve the legislation Wednesday night, sending it to Obama’s desk for his signature late Wednesday or early Thursday morning.

When President Obama signs the deal and the shutdown ends, federal employees who have been furloughed generally would be expected to report for work on their next regular working day. If Obama signed the deal Thursday, workers could be back on the job Friday.

1:45 p.m.: Pelosi Thinks Boehner Will Keep the Gavel, via TPM:

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) expects House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to keep his speakership after the government shutdown crisis ends. “Sure, sure,” Pelosi said in response to MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell on Wednesday asking whether he would retain his speakership. “John Boehner is a decent fellow. He has done the right thing at long last, by having this come up on the floor of the house. We’ve had moments where we’ve depended on the republicans to do something.”

1:28 p.m.: Boehner’s Critics Play Nice, via Politico:

Two leading conservatives are coming to Speaker John Boehner’s defense as he moves to put the Senate deal to open the government and hike the debt ceiling on the floor likely without the support of a majority of Republicans.

“I’ve been really proud of Speaker Boehner the last two and half weeks,” said Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), who didn’t vote for Boehner during a failed effort to oust him in January.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) — who opposed Boehner for speaker in January — said no one in the House GOP Conference is discussing ousting Boehner. “There is absolutely no talk of anything along those lines,” Jordan said.

The conservatives said they’re not dissatisfied with Boehner despite the fact that the speaker might have to violate the so-called “Hastert rule” to put the measure to end the shutdown and raise the debt ceiling on the floor. These same conservatives — speaking on a “Conversations with Conservatives” panel on Wednesday — are opposed to the Senate deal.

12:30 p.m.: It’s Official:

Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell took to the Senate floor this afternoon to announce the bipartisan deal that would open the government through Jan. 15, and lift the debt ceiling through Feb. 7. It would also require a bicameral budget conference committee by Dec. 13. “This has been a long challenging few weeks for Congress and for the country,” McConnell said. “It is my hope that today we can put some of those most urgent issues behind us.”

Perhaps more importantly, Sen. Ted Cruz said that he has no plans to try to stall action in the Senate, news that greatly increases the chances that the deal could clear both chambers before the end of the day. Asked by reporters if if he’d block a quick vote, the Texan Republican answered: “Of course not.”

11:34 a.m.: A Refresher on the Senate Deal That’s Almost Finalized (at Which Point It Will Head to the House For a Vote), via the Associated Press:

Officials said the proposal called for the Treasury to have authority to continue borrowing through Feb. 7, and the government would reopen through Jan. 15. … In addition to raising the debt limit, the proposal would give lawmakers a vote to disapprove the increase. President Barack Obama would have the right to veto their opposition, ensuring he would prevail.

House and Senate negotiators would be appointed to seek a deficit-reduction deal, but there is no provision for federal agencies to have increased flexibility in coping with the effects of across-the-board cuts.

Despite initial Republican demands for the defunding of the health care law known as Obamacare, the pending agreement makes only one modest change in the program. It requires individuals and families seeking subsidies to purchase coverage to verify their incomes before qualifying.

In Other Words, via the Atlantic’s Molly Ball:

The GOP will actually get less out of the final deal being brokered than the party would have gotten had House conservatives never staged their revolt on Obamacare. In fact, the drama is likely to end with Republicans ceding policy concessions to Democrats. …

The “concession” extracted by the GOP in the deal, the sole change to the health-care law, is purely cosmetic: a reinstatement of the requirement that people seeking subsidies under the Affordable Care Act furnish proof that they qualify. That requirement was in the original law, but the administration delayed it when implementation hit snags in July. … Democrats will get the government funded at levels they (grudgingly) sought in the first place, for longer than they originally sought, and without the looming threat of default.

10:25 a.m.: One Final Sticking Point in the Senate Deal?, via HuffPo:

A source familiar with the Senate negotiations tells The Huffington Post that the last sticking point between the two parties is how much flexibility – if any – agencies should have when dealing with the sequestration spending cuts.

The Senate deal keeps sequestration funding in effect, but also creates a budget negotiation framework that will offer recommendations to deal with it and other matters by Dec. 13. The question now is what to do about sequestration up until that date and what to do if those negotiations fail. … This won’t imperil negotiations, the source said. But it is a substantively significant sticking point.

10:00 a.m.: Boehner Relents, Will Rely on Dem Votes to Pass:

The National Review’s Robert Costa, who has had his finger on the GOP pulse better than most during this crisis, reports that John Boehner has agreed to allow the Senate plan—once its finalized—to pass the lower chamber with the help of Democratic votes.

9:55 a.m.: The House Will Vote First, via Politico:

The House will vote first on an emerging Senate proposal to open government and lift the debt ceiling, a move that would expedite bipartisan legislation developed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

If the House passes the bill first and sends it to the upper chamber, it would eliminate some burdensome procedural hurdles in the Senate and require just one procedural roll call with a 60-vote threshold needed to advance the bill toward final passage in the Senate. It could be an extraordinarily risky play for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), because it’s far from clear any Senate proposal would garner the majority of the House Republican Conference.

It still is not assured that Congress will send President Barack Obama a bill to sign by Thursday, when the Treasury Department says the country will breach the debt ceiling. Any senator can also hold up the bill in the Senate past the Thursday deadline, but originating the legislation in the House is the fastest path toward passage for lawmakers and is a sign of urgency in the Capitol.

9:40 a.m.: The Senate Hurdles, via Reuters:

Senate aides said the two leaders are looking at two possible ways of speeding the legislation through the chamber, which often can bog down for days with procedural hurdles. Senator Dick Durbin, the second-ranking Senate Democrat, told reporters: “In order to move this quickly tomorrow or as soon thereafter as possible, we need cooperation of members. If they want to drag their feet, use every objection they can, this could take a few days.”

Under one scenario, all 100 senators would agree to let Democrats schedule quick votes to pass the bill. That would mean that Tea Party firebrands, such as Republican Senator Ted Cruz, would give up their rights to delay a vote. Cruz has not publicly announced his intentions but some Senate aides think that the Texas freshman with presidential aspirations has been sending positive signals in recent days. …

The other scenario would have the House send a formal “message” to the Senate to pave the way for quick Senate action, according to a Senate aide who asked not to be identified. Again, it was not clear whether House Republicans would go along with that option.

9:20 a.m.: The Focus is Back on the Senate, via the Washington Post:

Top aides to Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) are working to finalize plans to raise the debt limit through Feb. 7 and end the 16-day-old government shutdown, after a House Republican effort to forge a solution collapsed Tuesday in humiliating failure. …

Senate leaders quickly moved to pick up the pieces [after things fell apart in the House on Tuesday], saying they were “optimistic” that they could advance an alternative proposal. But it was unclear whether the bipartisan deal being struck could pass the Senate before the Treasury Department exhausts its borrowing power Thursday.

9:05 a.m.: How Yesterday’s House Deal(s) Broke Down, via Politico:

In the end, it wasn’t only hard-line GOP conservatives that sank Speaker John Boehner’s plan to reopen the federal government and lift the $16.7 trillion debt limit.

The Ohio Republican, battered from three years of intra-party battles, was caught between at least three different GOP factions as he tried to craft a compromise agreement: Republicans who didn’t want to slash government health care contributions for Capitol Hill aides, members who thought repealing the medical device tax was a giveaway to corporate America and conservatives, who thought Republican leaders were too soft on Obamacare.

Boehner was unable to craft a deal that would satisfy all of the groups, forcing him to shelve his plan and show the world — again — just how hard it is for him to rule the raucous House Republican Conference. No amount of political gymnastics would help him reach the crucial 217 vote-level to send a bill to the Senate. GOP aides said that Boehner was — at a minimum — 20 to 30 votes short of the target.

Follow @JoshVoorhees and the rest of the @slatest team on Twitter, and read the rest of Slate’s coverage of the government shutdown.