WASHINGTON - The Senate's top two leaders announced a bipartisan deal Wednesday to reopen the federal government after a 16-day partial shutdown as well as avert an unprecedented debt default.
"The compromise we reached will provide our economy with the stability it desperately needs," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who reached 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.
House and Senate leaders were still negotiating how to maneuver the legislation through both chambers and get it to President Obama's desk before the Oct. 17 deadline to raise the debt ceiling. However, there was an air of certainty on Capitol Hill now that a formal deal is at hand and votes were expected Wednesday.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said the president "looks forward to Congress acting so that he can sign legislation that will reopen the government and remove this threat from our economy."
Prompt Senate passage appeared all but certain after Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said he would not filibuster the deal. "There's nothing to be gained from delaying this vote one day or two days, the outcome will be same," said Cruz, who gained national attention for his 21-hour filibuster-style speech during this budget debate on his opposition to President Obama's healthcare law.
The narrow package includes a stopgap measure that funds the government through Jan. 15, a suspension of the debt ceiling until Feb. 7, and 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. It does not include any provisions affecting the Affordable Care Act.
Senate leaders reasserted control of negotiations after House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, failed Tuesday to corral GOP lawmakers behind a competing budget proposal. House GOP leaders will likely have to rely on the vast majority of House Democrats to pass the Senate package.
"You're going to see a lot of Democrats vote for it, and you might get a few Republicans to vote for it, but I don't think you'll see a wide swath of our conservative caucus vote for what comes over from the Senate," Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wisc., said on MSNBC's Morning Joe.
The shutdown and debt ceiling fight has been politically bruising for the GOP. The battle began when House Republicans tried repeatedly to attach measures to a stopgap funding bill that would delay or defund Obama's healthcare law. Those efforts were rejected by the White House and Senate Democrats.
Republicans then sought to roll the shutdown fight into the next budget deadline to raise the debt ceiling.
Initially, House GOP leaders were seeking a broad package of spending cuts and financial changes to raise the $16.7 trillion debt limit. But House Republicans 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."
In recent days, Reid and McConnell began bipartisan talks to find a way out of the impasse, but McConnell put the brakes on the talks when Boehner again attempted to advance a GOP alternative. When Boehner failed Tuesday, Reid and McConnell quickly resumed talks late Tuesday. Each leader offered public assurances that a deal would be reached in time to avoid default.