Finally, An End In Sight For The Government Shutdown

The government shutdown should end tonight and America should be able to pay its bills. Both the House and Senate will vote this evening on legislation to achieve those goals. For months, President Obama has said he would not negotiate with Republicans in Congress about Obamacare or the federal deficit until those goals were met. After weeks of stalemate and more than two weeks into a partial shut down of the federal government, the GOP met his demands.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish. If all goes as expected, the 16-day-old government shutdown could come to an end as early as tomorrow. So far so good. The Senate is on its final vote on a bipartisan deal to reopen the government and lift the threat of a federal default. So far so good. The House is expected to follow suit later this evening. A spokesman for President Obama welcomed the compromise while warning that the deal is not yet sealed.

NPR's Scott Horsley joins us now from the White House. Hi there, Scott.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Audie.

CORNISH: So in the end, this deal was brokered by two Hill veterans, Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell, right?

HORSLEY: That's right, although they were cheered on by a bipartisan group of senators led by some of the women in the Senate. Reid and McConnell started work in earnest over the weekend and there was a sort of daylong detour yesterday to let House Republicans try to craft their own plan, a detour that turned into a dead end, so Reid and McConnell went back at it.

Their agreement funds the government through mid January and it allows the Treasury to keep borrowing money through early February. Now, significantly, McConnell acknowledged on the Senate floor this afternoon, the deal makes no major changes to the President Obama's signature healthcare law.

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: And Republicans remained determined to repeal this terrible law, but for today, for today, the relief we hope for is to reopen the government, avoid default and protect the historic cuts we achieved under the Budget Control Act. This is far less than many of us had hoped for, frankly, but it's far better than what some had sought.

HORSLEY: Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who led the push for the government shutdown in a failed bid to undo Obamacare, says his campaign is not over, but he did not try to delay or obstruct the Senate's vote this evening.

CORNISH: And of course, this still leaves the House to act. What's expected there?

HORSLEY: Well, we do expect the House to pass the agreement, either late tonight or in the wee hours of the morning. There was an air of resignation among House Republicans this afternoon and they said they would not stand in the way of this deal. Frankly, they were no longer the decision-makers. House Speaker John Boehner said all along he wouldn't allow the federal government to default on its obligations, even if that meant when push came to shove, that he would bring a bill to the floor and pass with largely Democratic support. That maybe what we see in the House tonight.

The speaker had one last chance yesterday to craft a alternative version with Republican backing, and he couldn't win a majority of his own members.

CORNISH: Meantime, we are still working on a deadline here, right, Scott?

HORSLEY: You know, Audie, that's about the only way Congress seems to work. The Treasury has warned that after tomorrow, they won't be able to borrow money and that means just a few days after that the government would be in real danger of not being able to pay some of its bills. That prospect was beginning to rattle Wall Street so investors breathed a big sigh of relief today.

The Dow jumped more than 200 points on news of this agreement. But even if the government avoids default here, White House spokesman Jay Carney has warned some damage has already been done.

He says the economy has suffered and this was a wholly unnecessary exercise. Just this afternoon we got word from the Federal Reserve that a lot of business people they talked to were shaken by the uncertainty over the government shutdown.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Scott Horsley at the White House. Scott, thank you.

HORSLEY: My pleasure.

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